Jen and Timy review Kept From Cages, the first book in the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams, also set in the Ordshaw universe.
Thank you to Phil Williams for the ecopy of Kept From Cages!
|Series: Ikiri #1||Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller|
|Date of Publishing: September 22, 2020||Trigger Warnings: death, violence, gun fight, massacre|
|Page count: 269||Publisher: Self-Published|
No one returns from Ikiri.
Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows.
Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?
On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?
Kept From Cages is the first part in an action-packed supernatural thriller duology, filled with eccentric characters and intricately woven mysteries. Start your journey to Ikiri today.
JEN’S REVIEW – 4/5*
“Reece took a breath. There was nothing he could say to this zombie-ninja motherfucker. He moved in a flash, gun up and firing in the same motion. He almost hit the bastard – but Vile moved impossibly fast, predicting the shot, down to the side. The swordsman spun across the ground, low, legs at spider-like angles. Caleb fired too, not even close, and the shadow spun between them. They dropped away as one, a flower of bodies falling to the sides, as Vile spiraled up in a shimmer of whispering steel. Reece rolled and fired again and Vile avoided the shots with unnatural speed, springing into the trees. Leigh-Ann scrambled to her feet, grabbing for terrified Zip, as Stomatt and Reece watched for the next attack.”
It took me a while to find a song with that southern rock kind of sound but here we are- this one is for Katryzna.
Trouble on the Rise by Blacktop Mojo
Kept From Cages was pure popcorn. I could have easily read this in a couple of sittings just because the thriller-style pacing had me flipping the pages pretty quickly. It’s non-stop action with a bit of government conspiracy type stuff thrown in as we have one of our POVs, an Agent Tasker, investigating a Norwegian village incident that rivals something out of 28 days later.
This story is wider in scope, covering several locations and quite a few more characters than the last time I visited this world with The City Screams. I seem to keep jumping in on the branches of the Ordshaw world and I still haven’t managed to actually read Under Ordshaw, the book that started it all. In other words – this reads fine on its own merit.
We do a little globetrotting as Agent Tasker gains a partnership of sorts, in Katryzna; an ex-agent bent on revenge for her friend. Katryzna was my favourite character, she unstable, unpredictable and she was just grumpy bad-ass fun.
New information gives them a common goal as they pinpoint the source of these supernatural power spikes which seem to be the link to the massacres along with answers that Kat is looking for about her friend’s death, here we discover the badness that is the Ikiri – the heart of the power that is bleeding its darkness into the world. I really loved the creepiness of the Congo sections. Weird magic, deformed humans and creatures, psychological horror (my favourite kind of horror) it felt dark, oppressive, and scary.
On the other side of the world, we have Reece and friends. Musicians (and gangsters) straight from the Bayou. Now, in east Texas, they have found themselves in the weirdest of situations after acquiring a young girl (Zip) to their group when they rescue her from a local farmhouse where she was being held.
The action ramps up as Reece and his gang try to protect Zip, whose preternatural gift is like a beacon to all sorts of nasties but the biggest is Vile, who is scarily competent (rival gang leaders have nothing on this guy) and seems to be more supernatural than human. As expected, the two groups converge at a later point for an explosive finale leaving lots of follow-up room in the second half of this duology.
The main players have more depth than you’d expect from something this quickly paced, and I enjoyed their interactions a lot – especially Kat and Tasker, in the Congo group and Zip and Reece, in the other. There is a nice blend of personalities and motivations with an air of unknown surrounding some of the characters. That little bit of unknown about Kat and Zip, coupled with the mystery surrounding the massacres they’re investigating, kept me always wanting to move forward in the story looking for answers.
I think what I love most about these branched-off stories in this world of Ordshaw, is the underlying mystery mixed with that supernatural horror. Even though I am not always clear on the base material, I don’t need to be because the supernatural and unknown elements let me just roll with the story and enjoy it as is. One of these days I will go back and start from the source but for now, I am just enjoying the hell out of these side stories.
TIMY’S REVIEW – 4/5*
“My kind, we live to damage. Systems glitch and set us free – ultra-powerful men decide we’re too useful to let die. We’re kept alive and we’re kept from cages, and I could’ve used that to save him.”
The obvious choice would be something jazz-y, but in all honesty, I really don’t know any jazz. Not my kind of music. So instead I picked Jungle by X Ambassadors feat Jamie N Commons.
I can’t believe I only just read a Phil Williams novel. What the hell I’ve been doing these past few years?! (No, don’t respond, I’d rather not think about it.) But, as they say, better late than never and I eventually got here. I’ve been eyeing Williams‘ books for quite some time now, but the timing was somehow never right. I’ve been especially interested in Kept From Cages ever since I laid eyes on the cover – and especially the blurb. Criminal jazz musicians, mystery, thriller? Sign me the hell up!
Kept From Cages has two plotlines running side by side. On one hand, we follow the Cutjaw gang with Reece, Leigh Anne, Caleb, and Stomatt whose escape from a crime scene goes wrong. Seeking shelter in a farmhouse they come upon some people who keep a young girl, Zip hostage. But rescuing Zip comes with a nice big heap of trouble they never anticipated. They face powers they’ve never encountered before, and they’ll need more than kick-ass music playing skills. I think my favorite thing about these chapters was how all of the band interacted with Zip in their own way, and how much she changed thanks to that. The cool thing about this band is that they are as much criminals and musicians. An interesting mix that works quite well. Even though their musician side doesn’t come into play all that much, which is really a shame.
“Reece could play all night. Feel the eyes of a hundred people loving every second, alive in it. The raw language of music brought them peace and calm – from the overworked kitchen staff down to little Zip, cheering and clapping along.”
On the other hand, we have Agent Tasker from the Ministry of Environmental Energy, investigating events and places connected with the supernatural, and especially a company called Duvcorp. He is currently traveling all over the world to get at the end of a series of massacre cases that happen seemingly randomly, but the signs are too similar to dismiss a connection between them. In his investigation, where he can never know whom to trust, he unexpectedly gets partnered up with Katryzna Tkacz which brings all of their own complications into the equation.
And that’s all I’m going to reveal about the plot of Kept From Cages. Suffice to say, both plotlines bring lots of fun, action, and traveling to the table. Each has its distinguished set of characters, conflicts, tensions. And despite the big set of characters overall, they are really easy to remember. Provided, it takes a bit of time to get familiar with all of them, but Williams makes a good job of giving them each time to make their impressions. I can’t say I connected with any of them in particular, but in this instance, it didn’t bother me as the story and the mystery kept up my interest well enough. That’s not to say I didn’t like any of the characters, mind. The Cutjaw Kids grew on me quite a lot, especially Reece and Leigh Ann, the way they handled themselves and Zip. I admit, I found Agent Tasker somewhat two-dimensional, but it’s maybe because he doesn’t really have a memorable personality. Plus, when you get to star alongside Katryzna, it’s not much of a wonder if you get outshined. She is like a human tornado – you can never know when it’ll appear and when it does, you better get out of her way. Definitely one of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered in a good while. She kinda reminded me of Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie.
And since we are talking about Katryzna, allow me to go slightly off-topic. When I first read her full name, Katryzna Tkacz, I was stopped in my tracks. Tkacz seemed eerily close to my own last name. This, as it turns out is because both have the same meaning in English, just one is Polish and the other is Hungarian. It’s one of those family names that come from professions, in this case, it’s the weaver. They also probably had the same root at one point, as it’s a word with Slavic origins. There, that’s your fun fact of the day.
In terms of criticism, I don’t really have much apart from a few minor quibbles I mentioned above. There was one particular plot point that wasn’t quite clear to me, and I’m not sure if it was me not paying attention properly, or it was glossed over. It’s not a huge thing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a bit confusing. And no, I can’t be clearer without spoilers, so you have to just deal with my vague reviewing. Sorry.
Kept From Cages is an action-packed, full-on adrenalin ride around the world. There is never a dull moment and you can’t know what’s going to happen next. It also keeps you guessing, which is definitely a plus in my book. I’m sorry it took me this long to read a Phil Williams book, but it certainly won’t be my last!