Bianca: The Silver Age by Jeff Pearce (2011)
It’s the Age of the Paladins, the age of the so-called “Vigil-ebrities” who fight crime and protect the innocent as the world tries to recover from economic collapse. And on the streets of Bohemia, Bianca is trying to find answers to her unique chemistry. She’s a succubus, forever trapped in a cycle of lust and violence that affects her very survival.
But when she looks into the murder of a chemist responsible for the latest addictive gel, the trail leads to exotic cities, new allies and sinister criminal enemies, and a corporate conspiracy that threatens everyone on Earth. By the end of her journey, Bianca will join the ranks of the most famous Paladins in the world: Orson Hawkwood, the leader of Defenders Without Borders, the enigmatic Clerfayt, detective avenger of Paris, Thelonius Minh, the peculiar “shrink to the stars” and master of combat yoga and the creepy, disturbingly powerful Plague Man.
Enter the Silver Age and join a unique heroine on her first exciting quest!
Bianca: The Silver Age is a sexy piece of superhero fiction. Bianca is a bisexual succubus, stalking through the streets of Bohemia in hakama pants and a bolero jacket with nothing but a bra beneath. She has super strength, healing powers, and shapeshifting abilities, and she’s on the quest to unravel a corporate conspiracy to find the truth about her origins.
I adore the world; it’s best described as an urban fantasy that takes place in the future. It’s enchanting and cosmopolitan, and this is reflected in both the prose style and the characters. One noteworthy superhero is Orson Hawkwood, who is essentially a cooler Bruce Wayne if he were a famous tech and PR savvy journalist:
Millionaire philanthropist. Muckraking reporter and blogger. Paladin. His working clothes had become almost a signature uniform: the light linen suit with the classic suspenders, the double hourglass of the bowtie never tied around the open collar, as if he were fresh from a formal dinner party.
He’s also in charge of Defenders Without Borders, an organization of “doctors, nurses, lawyers, child psychologists and social workers—all trained by the UN before its collapse—made up a task force of muckraking reporters and investigators.” And these Defenders run around in understated 1920s business suits. I don’t know about you, but I’d take them over Bat Family any day.
Another strength of this book are the links it makes between the criminal and the political. When their investigation leads them to Sudan, Orson resists involvement in internal politics. A local superhero, the Bandit Queen, criticizes him. “Same old Orson. You think you can show up, blow a police whistle and go after a mugger while the real pirates go merrily on with business.” It’s refreshing to see these concepts explored so courageously.
I have a number of criticisms. I was skeptical of the alchemy science (magic) in this book. Magic systems don’t need to be elaborated with overwhelming detail (in most cases, under-explaining is better than over-explaining). I didn’t find the alchemy-related explanations believable and yet they affect large portions of the plot. It sometimes felt arbitrary and it took me out of the story. Bianca’s motivation for her quest could have been more convincing, and it was difficult to follow the investigation—hampering the reading experience.
My favourite part of the book was the beginning when Bianca works solo while meeting the other heroes. Unfortunately, when she begins to work with them, she is often overshadowed by her colleagues. It she didn’t lose out in the superpower lottery and she’s good at beating up the bad guys, but much of the progress of the investigation depends on the deductive skills of others—and she ends up playing an oddly passive role for a book named after her. There’s nothing wrong with that dynamic if this is about a superhero group, but this book is supposed to be focused on her, and she should have sat in the driver’s seat more often.
While Bianca is seductive in some ways, it was an uneven experience and I wasn’t captivated by the main storyline. It’s not the greatest read, but the promising world-setting and the ideas that it explores within the superhero genre makes it stand out. I recommend it to readers who value innovative concepts over a tight plot, and can suspend their disbelief for the fantastical pseudo-science that often comes with superhero fiction. I’d consider checking out the sequel coming out this year.
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Highly original superhero fiction, urban fantasy, bisexual succubus action girls, sensual scenes, unique cosmopolitan settings
Posted on January 9, 2012, in 4 stars, Bianca The Silver Age, Contemporary and Urban Fantasy, Ebook Reviews, Fantasy, Frida Reviewed, Jeff Pearce, Science fiction, Superhero and tagged gadgeteer genius, international intrigue, scenery porn, secret identities, shapeshifting, superpower lottery. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.