Crusader was built as an assassin, trained as a mercenary, stripped of emotion and feeling, a human machine, completely Numb. As a soldier of the Ministrix, it is his job to do whatever the Ministrix demands, take out whatever individual they target. And he’s the best. He’s never failed. He knows that to fail the Ministrix is to fail the Almighty. And to fail the Almighty is to never be absolved of the guilt he carries.
On what was just supposed to be another routine hit—an easy one at that—Crusader finds his life flipped heels over head. Feelings break through the numbness and they’re directed at the one individual he has been ordered to kill: Isolda Westin.
Crusader isn’t sure why this is, but right at the moment of attack he decides he cannot carry out the mission—making him and Isolda both enemies of the Ministrix on the run together. As the plot deepens, Otte raises several important questions and surprises with several unexpected twists. Most notably, the major theme revolves around the concept of law versus grace and the nature of God. The contrast between the Praesidium (a secular government) and the Ministrix (the religious government) is also intriguing and thought provoking.
My lone criticism, or rather, the one weird point, is that Numb is surprisingly similar to Kerry Nietz’s Mask, also published by Marcher Lord. It’s almost as if Nietz and Otte were both given the same concept and told to run with it. It’s just odd to me that a small publisher would publish two similar novels in such a short time span. After talking with Marcher Lord founder Jeff Gerke, it turns out he was as surprised as I was. After a series of deliberations with Nietz and Otte, they ultimately decided to go ahead and stick with the publishing schedule they’d already set. The novels are sufficiently different enough, and, if I’m judging, I enjoyed Otte’s more. I guess it’s a case of great minds and all that…
With his third novel, and first outside the YA realm, Otte has seriously launched himself onto my list of favorite authors. His stories are deep and thought provoking while being fast paced and fun. The characters engage in struggles that sort of take our natural everyday struggles to the extremes to both teach and enthrall us. Otte clearly loves the genre he’s writing in and understand how to build a universe without getting bogged down in the details. In short, you simply cannot remain numb to Numb. The characters, the storylines, and the theme all converge to tell a great story with a compelling message.
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