Merrimon Book Reviews

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Provenance (Rogue Angel)
Provenance (Rogue Angel) by Alex Archer
by Alex Archer     

Action, philosophy and an ancient relic

Automatic rifle fire interrupts all the fancy events in the ballroom where Annja Creed and the mysterious Garin are attending the gala event. Garin, a man who has lived through centuries of human conflict casts an eye of suspicion towards the responsibility of the self-proclaimed terrorists, the People's Revolutionaries. When Annja finally escapes this event and the media attention, the tranquility of her living room comes to an abrupt end when the skylight above her shatters and her home is now the site of a commando-type raid. When she later returns to her home to find all visible traces of the previous attack now invisible, a creepy feeling remains. Cedric Milhouse telephones apologizing for the inconvenience of the attack and offers her a job to look into the disappearance of a holy relic. Although a background investigation into Cedric Milhouse poses more questions than answers, archeologist Annja Creed cannot resist exploring the mystery of a relic of possible archeological significance. Her investigation uncovers a n ancient religious sect, the Knights of the Risen Savior, a band of pirates in the South China Sea and the Sultan Wira of Rimba Perak, a man trying to prevent his country from being beholden to and influenced by the Sword of Faith. With rival parties wanting the relic along with its mysterious powers, a choice must be made --- not only as to who deserves ownership of the relic but also whether the mere presence of the relic would unleash a catastrophic effect on humanity by unleashing Armageddon.

Packed with action and intrigue, PROVENANCE is one fast read! Alex Archer sets up an intriguing mix of characters all set on possessing the sacred relic. Annja Creed's archeological background allows her more distance and appreciation for the relic perhaps from the disparate parties set on possessing it for their own ends. The presence of Garin, a man who has lived through centuries and the inclusion of his perspective on the terrorist attack provides an introduction to the philosophical questions posed in this book. In one brief moment, Garin tells Annja that there is always a choice, an idea that PROVENANCE develops throughout this novel. What is good and what is evil? Does the end justify the means?

Alex Archer creates an unusual mix of action and philosophy in PROVENANCE by detailing questions originating from today's political environment. PROVENANCE highlights the excesses and fanaticism that sometimes goes along with politics, religion and all things in life. The political philosophy in later references focuses on 9/11, security measures instituted by the Patriot Act, and sanctioned torture. By focusing on ideas and not mentioning specific personalities, the author adds to the philosophical nature of his questions. Nevertheless, politics are often so divisive that this book may not appeal to readers on certain places of the political spectrum. Additionally, readers who see the world, both politics and religion, in more black and white, right or wrong terms may prefer other books in this series. A look at the other far side of the political spectrum might have strengthened the message.

While PROVENANCE is packed with action and intriguing characters, Alex Archer does not develop the depth of character seen in previous ROGUE ANGEL books. Annja Creed is both sexualized and feminized more in this novel and the author's focus on her weight and thinness seems out of place, especially in conjunction to the action scenes surrounding this section. A romantic involvement with the Sultan added a dimension to her character without the same kind of sexualization. Oddly enough, in the one place a reader might expect more feminization, Annja's intelligence and cunning receive more attention.

Immediately upon finishing this book, I felt disappointed that the author did not develop the relic itself more with descriptions to detail its mystery and significance. Once I stood back a moment from the last page, the author's description of the relic seemed all the more brilliant because the relic as it was written fit so perfectly in with the philosophical questions of the book. PROVENANCE was a good read but more attention to characterization without sacrificing the action and philosophical elements of this book would have made this ROGUE ANGEL a great read. In general, ROGUE ANGEL is a series that appeals to both men and women readers. The action emphasis over characterization and some peculiarities in Annja's character may indicate that the author approached this particular book with more of an eye to the male fans. Nevertheless, PROVENANCE makes for quite a pleasant and thought-provoking quick read for ROGUE ANGEL fans!

Publisher: Gold Eagle (March 2008)
Series: Rogue Angel
Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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