Powers has been widely described in press releases as the ‘highly-anticipated sequel to Shade”; this is clearly an understatement in my case. Having closed my review of the first novel in John Olson’s supernatural-suspense series with “Give us another one John!” at around this time last year, it’s been a long wait for a hoped for, but was at that time a yet unverified sequel. Releasing on December 1, 2009, Powers is Olson’s offering to a growing fan-base.
Clearly paralleling his first in the series, Olson spins a tale that could be seen as somewhat derivative of Shade. A gypsy-raised cast-off girl finds herself without a protector, her background of being raised to fulfill a role in the Standing putting her at an advantage to avoid spiritual predators, yet making life in the modern world in which she finds herself thrust rather incomprehensible. A musician finds himself plagued by troubling visions and immersion into a spiritual realm where he is completely untested. The two are drawn inexorably towards each other as Mariutza (Mari) seeks out the one who she knows as Jazzaniah the Prophet – he goes by Jazz.
Those who’ve already devoured Shade will find that Olson hasn’t invested much time into further world-development in Powers. We again find ourselves following the chaotic, jerky mental imagery interspersed with flight scenes that seems to typify the learning curve of one who newly discovers their status as one of the Standing. Rather than the storyline following Hailey’s new awakening and Melchi’s protective hand, the sequel instead follows Jazz’s abrupt immersion into the world of spirit, and Mari’s rather awkward attempts to shepherd him into it (severely hindered by his hero status in her eyes).
While repeat readers will find little new, excepting the addition of a new couple, new readers will be somewhat confused due to the lack of explanation concerning the ‘bad guys’ – the shimulo – and may be somewhat mystified by the appearance of Hailey and Melchi without the background details the first novel offers. Distinctly less scary than in Shade the shimulo, or Mulo, make their presence known most often in the realm of the extra-sensory.
The shimulo are not specifically characterized as in the first novel, and as such seem much less threatening. The vampiric/demonic threat is largely unexplored as a result, and seems to be expected as a previously assumed piece of knowledge on the part of the reader. This shift results in a focus more heavily centered on mystery, suspense, and puppy love than upon the supernatural.