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Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam

Broken is the story of a superhero, or Extrahuman, as they are called in the book, who has lost the power of flight. She now calls herself Broken, but she previously went by Silverwing and then later, Silverwyng. As the story unfolds, Broken is living on the street, getting drunk and picking fights with Black Bands, the government's law enforcement team. Although Broken can't fly anymore, she is still a healer, so she never shies away from a fight, because no matter the pain, she will eventually be good as new.

Meanwhile, Michael Forward, a young man who is a prescient, or one who has the ability to see the future, is walking towards a fate he has seen since he was very young. He is to go to a train station where a bedraggled mother will give him her infant son before committing suicide. Michael must protect the infant, because he is destined to lead the people to greatness, unless he falls into the wrong hands and then he will be the world's worst nightmare.

Michael's gift might seem fantastic, but he only sees possible futures and only when he looks directly at someone. Since he's seen his own bleak future countless times, he's a young man who avoids mirrors. He can't see how someone as damaged as Broken could ever help him, but he is taking direction from another prescient, Joe, the man who raised him. He also received a letter from yet another prescient, Valentino Altrera, now dead, who was a great spiritual leader of the people. Val, as he is called, instructs Michael to seek out Silverwyng and this is how his journey begins.

Michael and the infant, whom he calls Ian, eventually find their way to Broken and the motley crew begin their journey, with their eventual goal being Valtera, a somewhat peaceful planet named for Val. However, things won't be easy, because Broken's former lover and fellow Extrahuman, Sky Ranger, has now been commissioned to find them because of this child who will someday be important. There is much unrest in the government, run by President Peltan, and there are several groups in play, including the humans, the Ratons and an alien race called the Rogarians.

Broken, with Michael and Ian, come to find an old friend of Broken's called Lucky Jane, another Extrahuman who is now living in a commune of sorts with a makeshift family. Here among the clan, they meet Janeane, a woman who has the ability calm Michael with thoughts of the ocean, and Monica, a frightened young woman who was a student of one of the heads of the household and has now been assimilated into the "family," among several others. Michael keeps having flashes of a fiery future in which all of them burn because of the prejudices against their way of living, but despite this, he, Broken and baby Ian stay there with them for quite a long time. Eventually, Michael's visions come true and the group narrowly escapes, with Monica in tow, because Janeane was able to warn them and she also provides them with tickets which will afford them passage to Valtera.

From then on out, it is a race against time for the group to get to Valtera before Sky Ranger zeroes in on them and is able to stop them in their tracks. Their journeys will bring them face to face with a frightening array of people, from angry freedom fighters who want to use Michael's powers, to Black Bands who want to capture them all, to kindly people willing to help and, finally, to confront the man Michael has seen in his own future since he was a child. Success means not only the good feeling that comes from saving baby Ian, but it could mean redemption for all humans, whereas failure means the destruction of everything they know.

That's the quick version of Broken, but as I was reading it, things weren't always that clear. The book begins with the letter Michael receives from Val and at this point, we don't know any of the players. Throughout the story, there are many times when Broken would have a flashback or Michael would have a flash-forward and these, although they were interesting, would break up the rhythm of the story. There's a lot of politics going on in this book and, quite frankly, I was confused by some of it, at times. There are several factions and they would muddle together in my head because none of them particularly seemed like "the good guys." As for the Ratons and the Rogarians, I got the feeling that perhaps there was an underlying message about prejudices and that was the reason these groups of people were in the book, but again, just my opinion. I do feel that I need to mention that the book contains a sexual relationship between Michael, a 14-year-old young man, and Janeane, a woman in her 30's, which was a little creepy. I say this because I wouldn't want anyone to get this for their tweens to read, thinking it's just a regular "superhero" book.

Author Susan Jane Bigelow's first book, Broken, has some interesting aspects to it, however it needs further refining. It skips around a good bit and some of the writing seems a bit inexperienced and perhaps a bit experimental, as she works to find her style, and because of that, I didn't find myself riveted to it. There are also numerous errors throughout the book, whether they were spelling errors, spacing errors or punctuation errors and, as someone who edits writing all of the time, I was quite distracted by them. Some people may dismiss ebooks as a lesser form of literature but, although they are typically less expensive than printed materials, I still hold them to a similar standard. Before Broken goes into print this fall, I hope that someone gives it a strong going-over and gets rid of these errors, because they detract from the overall experience. As for whether Broken is a book you should read, I can only recommend that you read the excerpts on Amazon to determine whether it is for you. While I did enjoy aspects of it and I thought the story had promise, I feel like it needs a bit more polish before it's something I could really recommend.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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