I have been provided with an advance copy of the new School of X book The Siege of X-41, written by Tristan Palmgren, and published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.
So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.
I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.
What is Marvel
Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!
The School of X novel series is focused on the heroes that attend Xavier’s Institute and their adventures and the books in the series thus far have focuses on what would very much be considered b-list heroes, which is good because it allows the authors to do a lot more with the characters than they would be able to do with more established heroes.
This story picks up a few threads from previous books, specifically, Liberty & Justice for All by Carrie Harris (still need to read this, missed it on Netgallery, but I have bought it since), First Team by Robbie MacNiven, and Outlaw: Relentless by Tristan Palmgren (interestingly part of the Heroines series instead of School of X/Xavier’s Institue, so a nice shared universe being built up).
So this is kind of the culmination of those stories, with things like Anole adjusting to his new arm, and Josh, now known as Elixir, dealing with his fellow students knowing that before he discovered his powers, he was an anti-mutant thug.
These two are the main characters, and to be honest, there is a huge acknowledgement of the fact that their experiences in the previous stories, has left them with mental trauma and struggling to deal with the emotional fallout of kidnapped family members and being held as a slave.
The story sees a team of students, being sent down to X-41, a deep-sea outpost built to assist in the relationship between the Atlanteans of Namor, and the mutants under Charles Xavier. The outpost has been out of use for a while and needs maintenance.
Shortly after arrival, they find themselves under attack by a group of vampiric Atlanteans who relentlessly attack the station, eventually leaving them stranded and trapped at the bottom of the sea, with no way to return to the surface, or communicate with the X-Men.
But things start to go wrong, and it seems like the team is being sabotaged from within!
There is a great continuity in the Aconyte Marvel novels, and I think that good planning and excellent editing, has created a tight, consistent feel to the universe that Aconytes, sadly now former, publicity referred to as Earth 616-Aconyte, just slightly removed from the main Earth 616 with a few differences to make the novels work as a series.
So I am gonna hope that this level of attention of detail is kept up and maintained, because something that Marvel has failed at over the decades, is prose novels, and I really think they are on to a good thing here.
So turning to this specific book, and its a really cool idea, take two characters, who, frankly hate each other, force them into a small confided space, and throw in some horror!
This story, reminded me greatly of The Thing, in the way the isolation and hostile environment play such a major part in the story, its a really good mix.
The protagonists start off as fairly unlikable, Josh in particular was hard to sympathise with, and Anoles deep hatred of Josh combined with his trauma made him difficult to understand, but as the story wore on, and the situation became more dire, they are both forced to work together and overcome their mutual hatred.
I am gonna give the story 5 stars, its a really good plot and an awesome reward if you have been reading the other novels!
The Siege of X-41 is out now as a paperback and eBook!