Note: Review copy supplied by the author
Title: Lyra Rayne: Ground Zero
Author: Bryan Strickland
Genre: Superhero / LGBTQ
Length: 622 pages
How do you reconcile having god like powers and yet still remain a fallible human being? How can you find redemption when mistakes can have overwhelming consequences? Follow Lyra Rayne as she embarks upon a hero’s journey of self-discovery in her debut novel, Ground Zero…
Lyra Rayne’s greatest desire is to help. In big ways and the small, she just wants to help those in need. Through the altruistic ventures of her mentor, Dr. Grant Hill, and his vision for a clean, free energy source, Lyra found a way to help make the world a better place. That is, until the experimental rector erupts into a scintillating wave of Exotic Particle Radiation that destroys their lab, and nearly kills Lyra in the process.
Having miraculously survived the blast, Lyra undergoes traumatic changes that alter her physiology, right down to her DNA. Through this exposure, Lyra discovers that she has gained the supernatural ability to effect far greater change. Donning the mantle of a helpful heroine, Lyra puts herself in harms way to save the innocent. However, she quickly discovers that having superhuman powers does not reconcile human fallibility, and even one critical mistake can have devastating consequences.
Faced with the cost of her attempted heroics, she suffers doubt and guilt over the blood of those she failed to save. As she struggles with the consequences of her choices, the city comes under threat from another, more powerful enhanced being. Lyra must face her fears and failings in order to stand against the rising tide of rage and vengeance that threatens the city and its inhabitants, or risk losing everything in the epic conflict to come.
Lyra Rayne: Ground Zero is the first book in Bryan Strickland’s superhero series. The story is essentially an origin story for the main hero and her comrades, and follows through three stages: introduction to Lyra and how she gains her powers, Lyra learning her abilities and the villain reveal, and an action-packed finale. The layout of the story should be familiar to most superhero fans, and that’s really no bad thing. At its heart, I felt like Lyra Rayne was a loving homage to superhero tales, so the familiarity makes sense.
The characters themselves are decent too. As a lead, Lyra is enjoyable. She’s generally kind-hearted with a good sense of right – as shown in her saving a transgender student from bullying at the start of the book – but is also easily led by her friends. She’s a black belt martial artist, so her being able to fight when she goes super makes sense. At the same time, she can also be a little stubborn and focussed on her goal rather than the ramifications. She gets a wake-up call for more impetuous actions around the midway mark, allowing for her to grow and learn to balance her actions too.
Of the other characters, Lyra’s best friend – and eventual love interest – Mia is easily the most likable. She’s outspoken and fills the role of devil on Lyra’s shoulder when it comes to her daily life. The way the two women interact was one of my favourite parts of the book too, as their friendship felt natural, and it was interesting seeing how it was impacted when Lyra started crime-fighting.
The superhero work itself was enjoyable too, with Lyra taking on a Superman styled set of core abilities – such as flight and strength – to combat various crimes and disasters. Her interactions with the big bad were the best of these in my opinion, as they saw her having to adapt as she went along. The battles involved also didn’t shy away from the idea that superbeings could actually do a lot of damage if two clashed.
Lyra’s powers too are well thought out, with some downsides thrown in. They take a physical toll on Lyra, which prevents them from being limitless. They also mean that she has to concentrate a lot to keep her strength in check, thusly affecting her martial arts training. There does appear to be some scientific thinking behind them too, though my own knowledge level is not enough to comment on how accurate the scientific elements are. Being a superhero tale though, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
In terms of faults with the book, I feel like some of the early conversational sections were a little less assured than the later ones. Nothing was unreadable, but some of it didn’t really flow as well as others. Lyra and Mia’s romantic relationship too may or may not read well to some. The two ladies show interest in men then, bar a throwaway comment from Mia, fall in love without much in the way of hinting that it’s coming. They’re both likable characters, so I give it a thumbs up for positive bi rep, but I would have liked to have seen this build up a little more before it happened.
These are minor gripes though. In the end, this was an enjoyable story with a decent lead, and it certainly made me want to check out the eventual sequel. I give this a solid 4 out of 5.