cover image The Combat Codes

The Combat Codes

Alexander Darwin. Orbit, $18.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-316-49300-0

Martial arts trainer Darwin skillfully deploys his expertise in this impressive debut and series launch to conjure a world where individual hand-to-hand fighting matches have replaced full-scale wars. The Grievar Knights subscribe to the eponymous fighting codes and were founded on the precept, “we fight so the rest shall not have to.” Acclaimed former Grievar Knight Murray Pearson now serves as a talent scout for the nation of Ezo, charged with finding young fighters worthy of admission to the Lyceum, an elite combat school. Murray believes he’s spotted a generational talent when he sees Cego, a 13-year-old slave, defeat a Grievar Knight in a match, and works to get Cego into the Lyceum. Darwin rounds out Murray and Cego into much more than just skilled combatants, and their developing relationship forms the heart of the story. Darwin’s also adept at making blow-by-blow descriptions of bouts vivid and engaging, even for readers with little interest in the martial arts. This is a perfect setup for the next volume and will especially appeal to fans of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. (June)