Review of “Lethal Decree” by Dr. Trent W. Smallwood
Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
Whooohoooo! Yes! This is exactly what we needed to read when we needed to read it: an action-packed, heart-pounding thriller filled with testosterone (probably three or four different kinds of testosterone and testosterone derivatives). This is such a great homage to James Bond (007), as well as a hint of Metal Gear Solid, a trickling of John Wick, and a healthy dose of Rambo. That's what you're dealing with when you're dealing with Lethal Decree by Dr. Trent We. Smallwood.
Something we absolutely loved about this book were the core characters. They are absolute bad@$$es, and there's no bigger bad@$$ in this book than our main character, Sebastian, sometimes simply called “Storm.” The man is a storm. He's a humanoid typhoon—a killing machine who can read people and situations and overpower trained assassins, mercenaries, and terrorists. And believe it or not, the author actually makes this all seem believable. Sebastian isn't some teleporting action hero with infinite ammo who can walk over glass and tank bullets, he actually has to transit to and from different countries, scout out his targets, and come equipped for each mission. He is interested in avoiding the bullets and the glass. He's a thinker—a cerebral assassin (literally). That's something we can really appreciate about the character.
Sebastian does have a rather tragic backstory that gradually turned him into the stoic killing-machine he became, but the author doesn't immediately bombard you with the background information. Instead, you're first introduced to Sebastian in medias res, first hunting down a stone-cold Japanese child-murderer and wife-beater who mirrors Sebastian's own father, then going after a South African diplomat who figures into a child exploitation ring targeting young boys. So, you gradually see the kinds of issues that Sebastian takes personally even in his line of work (in which he's expected to be all business). Sebastian can't remove himself emotionally from things like this: the abuse of women and children by powerful, evil men. This clearly strikes a chord with him, and you gradually understand why as more and more of his backstory is revealed.
The more you learn, the deeper the tragedy becomes.
Despite being a mostly decent person, Sebastian does have a habit of being a bit of a womanizer (or, at the very least, a “ladies man”) and comes armed with a huge libido. This is definitely a nod to James Bond. However, it does get a little awkward in how in-depth the sex scenes are described. Like, it isn't cut for time, relevancy, or anything like that, it's just discussed in full detail from start to finish, almost like that book we read a wild back, Kairn. Perhaps this is meant to show how Sebastian fulfills the needs of these neglected, abused women while also filling the huge void left in his heart by his profound loss?
Sebastian, in a lot of ways, is not just a mercenary or an assassin, he's actually a vigilante. He takes the role and performs the acts that standard law enforcement aren't willing or able to do. He's interested in righting the wrongs of the world, and doing it on his own accord, imposing his own will—his own view of right and wrong, to protect the weak and the vulnerable. In a sense, this is admirable and noble but also a little frightening. Sebastian essentially allowed himself to become a monster to slay monsters, but he's still a monster nonetheless—a cold-blooded killer who takes justice into his own hands, whether his victims are deserving or not.
This is partly why one of the main villains, Tobias, is actually such a great character. That's right, he's not just a great villain, he's a great character altogether, and it's all because he serves as the perfect foil for Sebastian, a man he once treated as a comrade and even trusted with his wife's life and safety. Tobias is not pure evil just like Sebastian is not pure good. They are such gray, messy, flawed characters with comparable skills, equally deranged and equally determined.
With all that said, the pacing in the first quarter of this book is phenomenal, but it does get a bit messy near the middle. We go from rapid-fire punches and blows to a more plodding, drawn out story. In other words, this book slows way down about three or four hours in. You can't help but slap your knee and say, “awe, shucks” because the whole first half of this book was straight fire. It's ok, because the book picks back up near the end as Sebastian takes on all of the elite assassins sent by Tobias who've been built up throughout the middle portion. When Sebastian hears Tobias's voice after many years of being apart and being mortal enemies by proxy, it sent chills down our spines.
You then get an incredible flashback in which both men are called the organization's “best” while also being compared to being like brothers. The stage is set in the
The tension is there. It's intense! And the action is described in full glorious, gory detail.
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