Today I’m delighted to be reviewing ‘Blackcoat’ by Steve J. McHugh as part of the blog tour organised by Storytellers on Tour. There is also an opportunity to win a signed copy of the book for yourself!
I hope that you will check out the book and the author, and enjoy the rest of the tour with the schedule in the banner below or (HERE).
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.
Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.
The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.
McHugh is an author that I’d had on my radar and been meaning to pick up for a while, so when the chance to read this one came along I leapt at it. I have to say part of the reason is the cover, I think it’s the pose, it just promises action (and boy this book deliver on that) and just the colours, while the premise was intriguing – after all who doesn’t like a good dose of betrayal and vengeance? And I’m glad I did because Blackcoat more than packs a punch and I had a lot of fun with this one – my only complaint is that I would have liked more!
Blackcoat definitely manages to pack a lot into its pages, and it’s a book that gives you a couple of pages just to grasp the initial situation and some of the setting, and issues at hand and then it hits the throttle. From start to finish Blackcoat is full of gripping action, with a healthy dose (as long as you’re not on the wrong side…or sometimes even if you’re on the right side) of blood and violence, and the kind of humour/banter that you would expect in a setting where pretty much everything has gone to hell in a handbasket. Not in the apocalyptic sense, but in the dystopian, everything is touched by ‘rot and corruption’ sense, and it’s fantastic.
The setting is not the most important aspect of this story, but this dystopian, second-Earth world ticked all the boxes for me. I’ve been in the mood for apocalyptic/dystopian stuff lately, and Blackcoat more than scratched that itch. You’ve the corrupt leader with no interest in redemption or changing their way, with their tendrils reaching down into pretty much everywhere, an insidious drug problem and den, and a not-so-secret and more than thriving underground. We get enough insight and details to build up the backdrop to the story, without it overwhelming the rest of the book – and the worldbuilding was wonderfully precise and created a terrific atmosphere, and it would be easy to see other stories being set in this world – and I know that I for one would love to see more of it. The sci-fi element is fantastic, and there is some great and very practical technology in this story, and some very nasty stuff as well – again building on that dystopian feel. And then there were the ‘creatures’, I really liked the scenes with them and they had some of the best action, but if there was one aspect of the worldbuilding that I would have liked to have seen expanded it was them because I need to know more.
Blackcoat is very much character-driven, and Celine is a fantastic protagonist. First-person POV is one that I sometimes struggle with, but here it felt like the perfect choice because this is her story, and because we hit the ground running it also allows us to get glimpses of who she used to be and how that has shaped her, and again kept that narrow focus on the world because we were sharing her experience of it.
“You always were too stubborn, too sure of what was right and wrong,” Gorat said, angry. “Everyone else just manages. You don’t have to like it, but it’s how things are done here. Especially during the war.”
I always appreciate a well-written, badass female protagonist, and Celine doesn’t only tick that box, she fills it and slices it apart with those plasma blades just to make sure. What I liked – as well as the fact that she took no-nonsense, and was willing to risk it all – even those around her, to achieve her goal; was that she was willing to take the hard path. She might have some shadier history, but she had her own morals and was willing to stick with them despite the cost, and you had to admire that especially with the situation she was in at the start. As did the fact that she was as deadly with her tongue and wit, as she was with her weapons.
Another character I have to mention is Rika, who I liked just as much as Celine even if we didn’t spend quite as much time with her. She’s just as well-written, and even though she was a criminal there was a sense of honour there, and I absolutely adored her interactions with Celine – which had an element of shared history and a wonderful level of snark that just endeared them both to me even more.
“Tell me again why we were never closer friends?”
“I’m a Blackcoat, you’re a criminal.”
“Ah, yes, a tale as old as time.”
Blackcoat is a book that you’ll find yourself devouring in one go because it keeps you on the edge of your seat from the get-go. This was a fantastically dark read, that packs a hefty punch for it’s length, and manages to be far more than a simple vengeance story. There’s heart in this book. A great read, and one that I would highly recommend.
Steve is a bestselling author of Urban Fantasy. His book, Scorched Shadows, was shortlisted for a Gemmell Award for best novel, and he has sold over a million books worldwide.
Steve was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.
Prize: A signed copy of Blackcoat by Steve J. McHugh – International
Starts: October 3, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: October 10, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
You can enter HERE
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.