David Wood takes a giant leap forward with his new thriller Cibola, which puts a new twist on the legendary cities of gold. Dane Maddock and “Bones” Bonebrake are back for another adventure. Two separate archaeological finds lead them through a series of Anasazi ruins, where they discover pieces of an ancient artifact upon which is engraved clues to an unknown treasure. Along the way, they run afoul of the Dominion, a paramilitary group of Mormon radicals (definitely a new angle) and dangerous creatures out of legend.
As in his previous novel Dourado, Wood preserves the element of mystery throughout the narrative. Dane and Bones aren’t sure what exactly they are looking for, and even when they think they have all the answers, there are new surprises, including some at the very end of the adventure. Wood skillfully weaves Biblical, Egyptian, and Native American legend into an intriguing story that keeps the pages turning. Where Cibola improves over the equally exciting Dourado is in terms of plot complexity. The story holds multiple twists and a few big surprises, and is more fleshed-out than Wood’s debut novel.
The area in which Wood truly stands out, though, is in his characters. Dane is tough and resourceful enough to be an admirable action hero, but also has shortcomings that make him human to the reader. Unlike many leading men in the thriller genre, he actually grows and changes in each book. Bones steals the show again with some laugh-out-loud lines. Even the secondary characters are interesting, and not the “cardboard cutouts” of so many other thrillers.
Better development of the antagonists is definitely in order. I wanted more information about the Dominion and their aims. Its leader, the Elder, and Issachar, the baddest of the bad guys, needed more scenes and a greater intimation of the danger they posed.
Overall, this is a very good book, and a major step up for a talented author. Wood strikes a nice balance between mystery, action, and characters, and spins an intriguing yarn. If he shows similar growth as a storyteller in book three, David Wood just might become the new master of the biblical action-thriller.