Beowulf—a hulky, brindle-coated bullmastiff—is the only “boy” for Timbrel Hogan. And she has a history to remind her why. But when Timbrel, a handler at A Breed Apart, embarks on a mission to detect WMDs in Afghanistan, she reunites with Tony “Candyman” VanAllen and her no-other-man philosophy is challenged. While tension mounts between Timbrel and Tony, the team comes under fire after Beowulf gets a “hit.” When tragedy threatens Tony’s career and Timbrel’s courage, they must maneuver through an intricate plot and a mission like no other.
Third book in the A Breed Apart trilogy. And the best one out of all three! I thoroughly loved this one and kept saying to myself that this should not be last one. Now I find that the team of all these characters, those of the ODA452 will be back in a new series called The Quiet Professionals, the first volume called Raptor Six. I am not sure if the MWDs will be back in this series but nevertheless, I am looking forward to this immensely.
There is more of everything we became used to in this instalment, faster pace, well researched military ops and well developed plot and characters.
In this novel, it seems Kendig has developed the main characters of Hogan and Van Allen more so in this novel than she had the main characters in the previous two. That is not a complaint just an observation and it is a good one for that matter. She has portrayed the chemistry between Van Allen and Hogan very well and makes it very enjoyable. You find yourself being an observer and not a reader watching these two develop their relationship through the various dominant characteristics of each other's personalities and their fears and hurts from the past. Kendig is quite the character developer and these two characters really show her expertise here. As an observer so described here, this relationship was fun to watch and so engaged by Kendig that you rejoiced when things went well and grieved when their relationship went sour and became frustrated but understood when their fears threatened to overtake them and put them on a path of self destruction.
One could say that there was maybe a touch too much of the romance compared to military action and therefore this made it more of a romance novel with a military background but I guess that would be a fair enough comment if one had not read the previous two novels. I felt this for a while but as the novel progressed and the situation developed with Van Allen, it made sense that this was so and it really did balance out in the second half of this novel.
I loved the touches of humour Kendig inserted especially when it came to the relationship between Beowulf and Van Allen, Beowulf growling and never let Van Allen gain any respect and Van Allen calling him the "hound from hell" whenever there was any major interaction between them. Despite this, it was Beowulf who saves Van Allen from more serious injury during the bomb blast and the two of them forget their differences when it came to joining forces and saving Hogan from harm when she was kidnapped and assaulted.
After the mission in the first part of the novel, there was quite a time gap or was it that so much transpired since this mission that it seemed the plot relating to this was a bit disjointed? I was a bit concerned but knew Kendig would deal with this as the novel progressed and she did this very well in the last quarter. This added to a great ending, one I was on the edge of my seat with and almost near tears with the thought that Beowulf could have died! One of my thoughts during this time was, "Kendig, you can't kill off Beowulf! No, just no!" I had the same feeling and did cry when the story line implied that Van Allen had died from the bomb blast!! All this does is show how masterful this author is at plot development and flow and also with characterisation.
Again, Kendig included the spiritual aspects without being preachy and applied them to the fears, hurts and challenges of not only Van Allen and Hogan but also to her mother and her fiancé. In some Christian novels this spiritual side of things can come across as either too much and not applied appropriately to the characters or their situations but in this case, Kendig does show that Christianity is indeed a relationship with God and not a crutch for those who are so called weak and cowardly. She mixes this in very well with the mind set of the strict military and regimented culture of the military who can be very independent in thought and action and masters of their own fate.
I loved the subplot of Aazim/Dehqan and how the witness of Nafisa, a Christian converted from Islam, softened his heart and this led him to consider Christ as the one True God and not Allah. Af first I felt that with Dehqan narrating his side of things in the first person a bit hard to deal with compared to the rest of the novel in the third person but after a while I found this was very unique and did fit into the plot very well.
All in all I found this a very enjoyable and compelling novel and the best out of this trilogy.
The other two were Strongly Recommended by myself but this one is Highly Recommended.
Ronie Kendig, Well done!!