Driven to the Hilt: Tempered Steel. What is this book about?
In my own words…
Joshua didn’t ask to be kidnapped and transported to a faraway planet most people believe is a myth, but now that he’s there, now that he’s forged solid friendships and qualified to train as team leader—also known as “Assassin”—there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep his mates safe. With over a year of intense training under his belt, Joshua knows graduating as “Assassin” will be hard enough… But now someone is trying to take him out, sabotaging his team in the process. The question is: can he keep them safe while wearing a target on his back?
A Little Disclaimer
This could very well be the trickiest review I’ve ever written. Not because the story isn’t good, but because I read a draft, a diamond in the rough (as all drafts tend to be). I know changes will be made before this shining jewel sees the light of day, but I’m not exactly sure what they are.
So, today, I paint an impressionistic review… giving you the broad brushstrokes—and maybe a few little dots and daubs here and there—to impart impressions of what I most enjoyed.
Bold streaks of color: The Action Scenes
Let me tell you, this book has some truly epic action scenes. The cards are stacked against our hero, but he rises to the occasion, ready to sacrifice for his friends. Why should his bittersweet setbacks throb in our hearts with such painful pleasure? Are we sadists, eager to witness our hero’s suffering? Or perhaps his nobility inspires us—with a character kind enough to sacrifice for his friends… if that’s what it comes to.
Joshua is a humble leader. Uncertain as any young teen, but not without skills. And readers enjoy a hero who’s truly good at something. When forces come against him, what do silent witnesses say?
“I see why the [Drill Instructors] refer to him as a gameday player. His capabilities come out under pressure. Not just fast, but very precise in his movements. He took out two Combine trained opponents before being blindsided. Presumably, he has now learned the dangers of target fixation and won’t soon make that mistake again.”
Irregular splotches of paint: Teen Awkwardness
Maybe it’s just me, but those of us old enough to have survived our teens might be more qualified than any youth to appreciate a good coming-of-age. Why should I find Joshua’s teen awkwardness so endearing? Maybe because he’s guileless and sincere, just the kind of boy any girl ought to like.
So how do the girls react to him—and he to them?
A playful curve formed in one corner of her mouth, “Sounds as if you’re determined to surpass my father’s record one day, what with all the records you’re breaking. Leading the highest rated Recruit team from JQuad, beating the previously undefeated Recruit sparring champion, destroying The Tube record…” She let the teasing implication hang off her lifted brow.
Joshua blinked twice before focusing on turning his tall tea glass, “Ah, well, you know, it’s always a team effort and…” He could almost hear the blush creeping up his neck and desperately searched for something else to talk about.
“You were only killed three times on that attempt, Mr. Joshua.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“I was not complimenting you, Mr. Joshua. Being dead three times rather than five times is not something to celebrate.”
Black Shadows: Emotion & Depth
Beneath all the bright colors—variegated dots and daubs—there exist dark shadows… dim translucent brushstrokes undergirding the whole with depth and emotion.
Joshua looked forward just as they emerged into the Junction. He was totally unprepared for slowtime to kick in, bringing their progression to a crawl, deepening the hum of the steel wheels on the rails, his eyes drawn to where the tracks led straight on… The mouth of the waiting tunnel was an ominous pool of black that pulled the train towards its dark maw, eager to be fed. Joshua sat frozen, helpless to stop them from being devoured by their unknown future, the inky half circle growing ever larger…
There’s certainly more I could say about this third novel from DG Lamb. The new skills the Recruits learned piqued my interest—adding to the omnivision and tiny tell practices of book 2, the acting classes and alcohol tolerance—all aspects of what future covert missions might entail. I enjoyed discovering a little more of Joshua’s world. The descriptions inside the mines, in particular, took me back to my days of caving and satisfied, in the same way, that burning desire for exploration: Where does this dark passage go?
Besides that, what else can I say? I dare not commit the forbidden literary trespass of describing how it all ends… except to say, the book’s conclusion is powerful. In three words, it’s Raw. Electric. Energy.
So I’ll merely close with another excerpt:
Large red eyes locked onto him with ravenous intent before they slid under the surface, followed by a thick glistening sinuous tubular body that peaked in a ridge on the back, topped with a long continuous dorsal fin that cut a V into the glassy top of the black water. Finally, a flat wedge of a tail lifted and signaled the end of monster. It slipped out of view, but the silent roiling gleams of inky water marked the powerful push the tail provided, propelling the creature to where? Joshua shivered. The Water Dragon’s appearance had been startling, but its disappearance caused a gut-wrenching panic to rise and Joshua’s eyes began darting after every shimmering ripple—it could be anywhere!
He knew that voice from somewhere and he knew he needed to respond, but Joshua could not pull his eyes from the now quiet body of dark water before him. There was also something else that was missing, something that belonged with this evil predator. The voice became more insistent.
Certain the Water Dragon was going to rise up to devour him the moment he looked away, Joshua turned his head toward the voice, but his eyes would not leave the water.
Drayev’s question broke the spell. He snapped away from The Swamp and was back in The Combine. With the transition came the answer to what had been missing – the stench of Stink Blossoms. With a small shudder, he looked at his large friend before refocusing on DI Betzee.
“Are you alright?”
The DI’s loose blonde hair was a halo, backlit by one of the low-intensity lamps providing a minimum of illumination to the staging area in front of The Deep Six. Even though Joshua could not see her heavily shadowed face, he heard the concern in her voice. A low comment followed by a soft patter of laughter drew his gaze to the cluster of Students that was P-333. Perfect. I have to pull a psycho before the Aquatics capstone test and our first head-to-head with the Top Team on the board.
He locked eyes with Lorll, who stood two steps in front of her Team in the Assassin’s position. Unlike the rest of P-333, she was not smiling. In fact, she had been regarding him with almost the same predatory intent as the imaginary Water Dragon from Cypress Grove. Her body relaxed and she eased back into parade rest with a small knowing smile that held just a tinge of sympathy.
Her attempt to rattle him further made his steel inner core vibrate. Might as well own it. “Sorry, Ma’am. I was just having a little flashback to the formative days of my youth.” He regarded Team P-333, whose murmurs and laughter rose in volume.
“The reminder of having survived so many brushes with death is somewhat comforting, actually.”
In the sudden silence, he saw Lorll’s eyes first widen a touch and then narrow in response to the hardness of his stare… “I’m ready to go.”
About Tempered Steel
Kidnapped and brought to an unknown planet, Joshua Vernon must lead a team of diverse teens in training for deeply covert missions. As the strains of head-to-head competitions rise for the team, the risks become extreme, stretching his leadership skills to their limits.
All the while, mysterious antagonists maneuver from the shadows, some manipulating outcomes for their own sinister goals, others seeking to eliminate young Joshua altogether. Even with the help of his new friends Drayev and Sawyer, and the support of Dr. Calyse and Hobo, can Joshua survive this new adventurous world and its perilous threats? The demands will eventually exact a heavy price.
About the Author
Debut author D G Lamb, a clinical neuropsychologist, uses his understanding of posttraumatic stress symptoms to inject psychological authenticity and complexity into Joshua’s personality, creating a wounded, but endearing central character.
Learn more here: https://www.driventothehilt.com/