Book Review: Raptors 2 – Superteam by Jaime Castle & CJ Valin

Book Title: Raptors 2 – Superteam

AuthorsJaime Castle, also known as Steve Beaulieu & CJ Valin, also known as Christopher J. Valin

Publication Date: April 20, 2021

Available OnAmazon as an eBook, a paperback and an Audible audiobook

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Sawyer’s life has changed since the events of the previous novel. He’s moved into a much better apartment. His mother has sobered up and is dating someone respectable now. Sawyer is patrolling the city with Amy, also known as the superhero Osprey. Together, they are filling in for Black Harrier, a role formerly filled by Frank.

He’s doing well in school, though his superhero responsibilities take up much of his free time afterward. He even has a new job working at a fast-food burger joint for a petty tyrant, errr, I mean manager. For a seventeen-year-old teenager, he’s a very busy fellow.

But Sawyer will need all the help he can get when the Neon Knights arrive on the scene, committing crimes while armed with state-of-the-art energy-based medieval weapons and power armor. As a result, Sawyer must form his own superteam to combat this new threat.

Meanwhile, New York City is preparing to celebrate the first National Sidekick Day and Sawyer is the guest of honor. But when something surprising happens, Sawyer and his team must step up to take on the threat. On top of that, there’s the mystery of who the Neon Knights are and what their endgame is. Can the team take down the Neon Knights and demonstrate why they deserve to graduate to the superhero big leagues?

The novel moves swiftly as it balances many different plot threads. Moving between Sawyer’s superhero life and his personal life, things grow more complicated. It deftly picks up on threads from the first novel in the trilogy and weaves them into this story. The Neon Knights are a new but dangerous threat, wreaking havoc across the city. The action is superhero fighting the way you like it, with creative combat, interesting enemies, intriguing motivations, and lighthearted humor, with all the clever teenage comebacks you can imagine.

And what happens on National Sidekick Day only adds to the confusion that Sawyer and his team must face. This adds a compelling new dimension to the storytelling and expands on this world, the superhero Guild, and the personalities of all the heroes who inhabit it. I enjoyed this aspect of it, as it proves to be critical by the time we reach the end of this novel.

It also creates a bit of politics for Sawyer to navigate with the Guild, as their dictates directly impact what Sawyer and his team can and cannot do. Sawyer looks at this interference with anger and he responds with teenage rebellion, in words, and in action. This creates some tension in Sawyer’s life on the superhero side.

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On the home front, Sawyer must also deal with his mother dating someone new and this proves to be more important than he could imagine. He must also deal with having a part-time job working in Big Frankie Junior’s burger joint. Both directly follow up on the revelations from the previous novel and creates some interpersonal dilemmas for him. This added more welcome character background and history, not just for Sawyer, but for Frank as well. This impacts their relationship and deepens it, just not in the way you would expect.

Surprisingly, there’s less time spent on Sawyer’s time in school, like in the first novel. However, his school life intersects his superhero life in surprising and interesting ways, blending the lines between the two in unexpected and scary ways. The increased focus on Sawyer’s superhero life makes things that much more mesmerizing as well as the unexpected obstacles that come with it.

Sawyer is one tremendously resourceful, intelligent, and talented teenager. With Frank working behind the scenes, Sawyer works with Amy to protect the city while Alex, the Black Harrier’s first sidekick, is protecting Boston as the superhero Redwing.

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While managing all of that, he’s also trying to form a team of his own and trying to figure out to lead them. He must also try to figure out how to manage his feelings for two women he’s attracted to. One of them will forever be unrequited, but the other is not what he expected at all. That’s a lot for one teenager to deal with!

The story rotates between two different points of view. Where, in the first novel, Sawyer was our primary protagonist, here we also get the story told from another person’s perspective: Amy. She has several meaty storylines too. She’s in college, her parents are getting a divorce, her mother wants her to move to Europe with her and neither of her parents knows she is Osprey!

She must also navigate the perils of superhero relationships, in an off-again, on-again relationship with one superhero while also dating another one. Add into that her deepening partnership with Sawyer in forming the superteam and she is dealing with plenty as well.

The two different perspectives make this story that much more enjoyable and refreshing. Between the two of them, they tell a terrifically entertaining tale. By using these two points of view, it also effectively demonstrated increased characterization and depth of all these relationships to everyone in their orbit.

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There’s plenty of witty banter, funny situations, and some truly laugh-out-loud moments, One of the highlights for me was the auditions that Sawyer and Amy run for the team they’re forming. As it turns out, they’re (mostly) filling their roster with sidekicks of other major superheroes and it makes for a lot of awkward situations and humorous moments.

Also, there’s another moment in the final battle with the Neon Knights that is probably the funniest way I’ve EVER seen a climactic superhero fight end. There’s self-awareness on the part of Sawyer and Amy, talking about what superhero stories they read in comic books or seen in movies. Then they compare it to their real lives, which adds another layer of humor to this story.

Let’s not forget the intrigue, both of a superhero and personal nature. It is tempting to focus on the superhero side of the story while neglecting character development but that, thankfully, doesn’t happen here. There are some surprising developments in everyone’s relationships, with gives the reader a much deeper insight into each of their characters.

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Lots of story and character threads brought up here: Sawyer coming to terms with what he learned at the end of the previous novel, Amy making some big life changes and trying to handle a secret she doesn’t want to be revealed as well as Alex taking on more responsibilities in his new role. Frank, in starting to demonstrate more emotion than before, being less gritty and being (a little) more open.

The epilogue and its repercussions raise the stakes for the third and final book in the trilogy in an unexpected way and make me that much more excited to read it.

The novel takes all these different ideas and blends them, continuing the trend of meshing teenage shenanigans, super-heroics, snappy quips, and complicated relationships. It’s a remarkable story that builds upon what was established in the first novel and brings it all together, like a superteam, into one marvelous blend of distinctive and spellbinding superheroics.

If you found this review to be helpful to you, please click here to go to the review on Amazon. Then navigate to the bottom of this review and click on the “helpful” button.

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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about other novels in the Raptor trilogy written by Jaime Castle and CJ Valin include “Raptors 1 – Sidekick“.

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories written by Christopher J. Valin include “Chronicle Worlds: B-Movie“, “Best of Beyond the Stars: a space opera anthology“, “Beyond the Stars: Rocking Space: a space opera anthology” and “Chronicle Worlds: Legacy Fleet

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories written by Jaime Castle, also known as Steve Beaulieu, include “In Your Closet and In Your Head: A Monster Anthology” and “Bridge Across the Stars – A Sci-Fi Bridge Original Anthology

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about anthologies that contain short stories written by Steve Beaulieu and by Christopher J. Valin include “Once Upon a Time in Gravity City“, “World Domination: A Supervillain Anthology“, and “It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane!: A Superhero Anthology“.

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