VanOps

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

(This review is scheduled to be published November 6, 2019 at the blog "Stories Are My Life" phlipside.wordpress.com)


The Lost Power - Van Ops by Avanti Centrae (2019) -  Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones are sent spinning across the globe after the assassination of their father, and Will's wife.  They are in search of an ancient object that may possess immense power.  Power enough to change the world forever.  Which means they are not the only ones searching for it.

There's a really good story here.

And yes, you hear a "but" coming.

The author wants to set a breathtaking tempo to the story.  That's fine.  What bothered me is the tempo is so high that some important bits get left behind.  The characterizations are thin, even by thriller standards.  It's hard to care too much about the twins, their sidekick (more on him in a minute) or any of the other folks who figure here, simply because I never felt like I knew anything about them.

The pace also tries to sweep us past some large moments of illogic.  The largest of these is the arrival of their childhood friend, "Bear".  Ex-Marine, history buff, who always had a crush on Maddie.  Whom they haven't seen or spoken to in a decade.  After three attempts on their lives by they know not whom, in a place where they are supposedly hiding (which was a silly choice in itself), Bear walks up to them in a diner.  With very little resistance, they reveal most of what is going on and invite him to join them on a secret journey that is a centuries-old family tradition.  He walks up, plops himself down at the table and the next thing you know, they are all going to Spain.  With forged passports that are just a finger-snap away.  It's ridiculous.

I just stared at the page for a while after reading that.  No one should be surprised that he is working for the U.S. government in a super-secret intelligence organization.

The good news is that most of these issues are in the beginning chapters of the book.  The story was interesting enough to carry me past those issues.  And Centrae is a solid storyteller.   Despite the SMH moments, there was never a doubt that I was going to finish the book.  In the publicity pieces, the book is called "DaVinci Code meets Tomb Raider".  That certainly gives you the ballpark of the story.


My one concern going in was that it is the first book of a series.  Some of these offerings leave you with a cliffhanger at the end.  The goal is to get you to buy the next book, and the next, and the next.  For me, it is awful storytelling.  Give me an ending to the story I've read.  Otherwise, I'm less likely to search for the second book.  Here, the ending offered is a reasonable place to stop the story.  All of the action of the first book has been concluded, even if the overall story of the characters and the object still have questions.  So, if the second book came into my hands I would certainly read it.

If you are looking for a fun ride at a breakneck pace, then you should grab this first one too.
Rating *** Worth A Look
"The Lost Power - Van Ops" by Avanti Centrae will be available November 9, 2019.


This review is done from an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) and is done in compliance with our state review policy.
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I was drawn to the book due to the blurb by James Rollins.  VanOps is a rather complicated thriller.  I enjoyed the beginning.. and then the story jumps ahead nearly a thousand years.  The conspiracy aspect was interesting and does hold one's attention.  It just took me a while to get through the novel.
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The present novel is indicated as Avanti Centrae's first book in the series about a super secret division of the CIA.  This group is dedicated to investigating possible harmful activities of people or groups with an initiation into the past.  Ms Centrae begins the novel in Spain with the description of a battle fought in the year 1057 led by the King of Aragon and against an invading army of Moors. He captures a secret weapon first wrested by the conqueror Alexander the Great.
     The scene than shifts into the present time when Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones  attempt to visit their estranged father who has summoned them. They hear shots when approaching his house and in an ensuing attack both their father and Will's wife who was with them are killed. Immediately after the battle is over Maddy, Will and a friend that appears on the scene are sent by their father via his will on a mission to find the lost secret weapons of Alexander.  In the course of the action they travel to Spain, than to Israel and than rapidly elsewhere.  In Israel they are forced to undergo testing which involves a contest of kill or be killed in order to continue.  Why they submit to this trial and other dangerous tests is beyond me but does form part of the novel's plot.  
     We learn that the hiding of the secret weapon the Spanish royal family of Ferdinand and Isabel were involved and many of their descendants were killed in the search for the secret weapon.  Employing a good deal of literary license that certainly stretches the imagination Maddy, Will and their friend move forward in the search.  The novel is a fast read though not by any means an all nighter.  It is something to pick up for the idea postulated and enjoyed on that basis.
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I can see why this engaging book won an award. It has a lot going for it -- travel, good dialog, mystery, adventure -- all told by a very talented author. Highly recommended.

I really appreciate the advanced copy for review!!
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I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a possible review.

I want to start off by saying this really should be 3.5 stars, nearly 4. I'll get into why in a second. 

It is the first book in a series. You have to start here because I don't think the second book is available yet. I was drawn to it because it was liked to James Rollins and Steve Berry books, and I really love those books. It also happened to have a positive blurb from Ann Charles who is another of my favorites. In a weird coincidence, the author started following me on Twitter before I even saw this on Net Galley. It felt fated that I should read this book.

There were a number of things to like about this book. One of the main characters is a kickass woman with a twin brother who is not so kickass. The history related to Isabel and Ferdinand was new to me and very interesting. There is a secret society or two which will always catch my attention. Weird initiation rites. A trip to the pyramids! And my favorite part, not one but TWO dogs. Both live for those that care about that kind of thing. 

I found the beginning a little confusing because I expected this book to be about VanOps. It took a bit before VanOps is even mentioned and then VanOps doesn't play a huge role in the book until the end. It was a different approach to the start of a series about an organization. I also questioned whether someone grieving the loss of their spouse would hook up with a stranger within a couple of days after the death. It ended up being a short plotline I felt could have been left out completely because it didn't really further the greater story. Maybe it will have meaning in the grander scheme of the series. 

I started out a solid 3 stars, but the characters grew on me as the book was drawing to a close just not quite enough to get me to 4. I would read the next book though to see if that changes.
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As an action filled find the ancient artefact before the world is doomed suspend your belief now this book is ok. Starting in California we dash off to Spain then Jerusalem, Vilnius and Mayanmar and back to California in seemingly no time and certainly without jetlag. The team has interesting characters, twins (Maddy and Will) and a friend (Bear), and they are thrown in at the deep end when their father is killed, as is Will's wife although she 'simply' got in the line of fire. Dad gasped his last by telling them to visit his solicitor and something to do with their ancient family history would be revealed. They visited, her secretary got shot by the Russian bad guy (who had killed Dad), they fled, he chased them, drove them off the road into a river way below, they survived, re-grouped and so on.  To a certain extent this continued through all of the places mentioned above and there were times when I thought, oh again - skip read mode. In between there were some more interesting bits about their coming to terms with their "task", their own limitations and their interactions with each other and the various 'groups who had protected the artefact' for millennia. Maddy was an aikado instructor and app designer, Will an engineer and Bear an ex Marine so they had various useful skills for their tasks and there was some good dialogue working out problems using these skills. Other than Bear getting an electronic bug detector, which found nothing, they made little of the fact that the bad guy was usually only about half an hour at most behind them and must have had some sort of "fix" on them. This seemed odd. Whilst I liked the artefact and the quantum physics behind it, I'm afraid that, too often, I felt there is no way that that would happen to make this a really good read for me. I can suspend belief but need to be drawn into the story to sustain this. I was drawn in then thrown out repeatedly. The ending strongly implies that there will be more of this team and I'd be happy to give number two a go to see if things improve - I'd like to think that the author might feel able to have a selection of actions rather than some of everything in future stories. Three and a half stars, rounded down. Thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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VanOps has so much packed in it, it has a little bit of everything for everyone. Interesting characters and storyline. I would read more by this author.
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Something for everyone who loves action. Relationships, history, supernatural, plotting, plot twists appeal to readers across many genres. Excellent start to the series.
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