This novella is the prequel to the Red Dog Conspiracy and lives up to the noir feel of those books. It’s a story for the current fans in many ways, and so gives a sense of what happened to bring about the world we find in the rest of the series. At the same time, with an open mind to the bigger picture, I think this is a good introduction to the series as well in that it provides interesting characters making hard decisions at the worst of times.
This story is both heroic and tragic in the way the transition between a corrupt government and a new one usually is. The Alcatraz Coup isn’t about the beginning when Benjamin Kerr created Bridges as an idyllic utopia but rather 300 years later when ideals are tarnished and a greedy heir apparent takes things into his own hands.
There is a price to pay for freedom, but rarely do regular people expect to pay that price. A school teacher’s concern for his students leads him step by step to a path where he must decide whether his own comfort is worth more than what letting the new king have his way will cost.
There are other ordinary folks involved in this coup, a recently widowed mother of one of the students, the single father of two who happens to be the head of the king’s guard, and a runner for the local gang among others. The main players are not special. They are people who care for more than their own selves and are more terrified of what they see the new regime becoming than what it will take to prevent this.
As a fan of the series, it is neat to see how things came together, the transition to control by the families 100 years later, and the origins of some very familiar names, but the tale itself is strong enough to stand on its own, with gut punch moments and twists that keep the story rolling. You do get to see the roots for some of the feuds between families later in the series, and it’s almost painful to know how they came into being.
I enjoyed learning how Bridges became the world as I know it for all the process saddened me. The hows and whys are both true to the culture and to human history while the characters, especially Xavier Alcatraz and Acevedo Spadros were well written. There are sweet spots, endearing interactions, and horrifying events throughout. The story never lets you rest easy in how things are going to come round, nor does it provide a simple answer to what is a very delicate proposition of getting people largely concerned for their own welfare to help. And all this while the king is becoming not just a tyrant, but one willing to slaughter hundreds just to have a scapegoat for the changes he wants to take place.
A powerful tale with more than a few uncomfortable life lessons mixed in.
P.S. I received this title from the author in return for an honest review.