Broken is the third volume in the Guardian Interviews series. These books follow a group of monster-hunters called the Regulators who possess the supernatural abilities due to their association with a man named Jaxon. Jaxon is the Guardian, a superhuman warrior capable of regenerating injuries when exposed to nature. Like the Slayer, a new Guardian is called whenever the old one dies (or abandons his duty).
Broken is about Jaxon abandoning said duty.
Not willingly but undeniably.
For the past two books, Michael Clary has been setting up the character flaws of Jaxon: his arrogance, his refusal to solve any problem save through the most direct means possible, and his blind trust in his allies. The flaws are exploited to devastating affect in Broken and we see the character pay a horrific price for them.
The premise is the Regulators find themselves honored for their role in fighting against the zombie outbreak in El Paso, Texas. Unfortunately, no sooner do they receive their owners than they find themselves framed for crimes against the state. Another series would have the Regulators begin a complicated A-team-esque plot to clear their names and take revenge on their enemies.
Instead, this book is about how the event breaks them.
The Regulators are a great bunch of guys, heroes all, but they have never been prepared for defeat. They can't deal with failure and whereas other heroes are capable of rolling with the punches, the Regulators aren't. I found this to be a surprising development and really enjoyed seeing them at their lowest.
This isn't because I disliked the characters but because it was a side we hadn't seen of them before. Heroism is very easy to portray when it's easy. Heroism is much harder when we see the protagonists actually struggle with it--and sometimes fail.
The resolution for this plot was really well-done as it happens in a way which is unlike any other similar plots in the franchise. The Regulators aren't the kind of people who can deal with a subtle threat against them. Like so many people who are very-very good at what they do, failure is a difficult concept for them to deal with. Growing up, I was something of a genius, which meant I was pathetic when my best wasn't good enough. The Regulators are the same way, except more so, and Jaxon is the worst of the lot.
Seeing him fail and in such a way as he does, is heartbreaking.
The book isn't perfect. There's an sequence where lesbian team-member Ivana has to deal with an extensive amount of sexual amount of sexual harassment from a co-worker the author plays for laughs but I didn't find in the least bit funny. Thankfully, Ivana deals with it in a far more mature manner than I would have in her place. There's also a seen involving the death of a beloved family pet which ends in a manner which is best described as "hokey."
Still, I liked this book's plot and the way the characters developed. Unexpectedly, the book has a section which can serve as a good bit of social satire against extraordinary rendition. When one of the characters finds themselves captured, we get a horrific look at what sort of abuses can happen when there is no one guaranteeing their protection. It's easy to justify torture and isolation when it happens to bad people, what happens when it happens to a good man?
We find out.
Broken is a great book and I'm glad Michael Clary took a chance by shaking up the formula. I hope he continues to change around things in order to keep the series fresh.
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