Shadow Ops is a Military Science-Fiction/Urban Fantasy series that debuted in 2012, written by Myke Cole. The series is set Twenty Minutes into the Future where humans are suddenly manifesting inexplicable magical powers, and deals with the military and political response to people suddenly gaining the ability to shoot fire or animate the dead, as well as supernatural entities from another reality intruding into Earth.The first novel in the series, Control Point, centers on Lieutenant Oscar Britton of the United States Army. Britton finds himself supporting the Supernatural Operations Corps (SOC), a branch of the United States military tasked with responding to and policing supernatural threats, including people manifesting magical powers. After responding to an incident involving two teenage "Latents" who go on a rampage in a high school, Britton suddenly begins manifesting the ability to create magical gates. Unfortunately, this power is one of several "prohibited" abilities, and Britton finds himself a sudden fugitive, sent on the run for abilities he has no control over. Captured by the SOC, he is given a simple choice: be "hired" as a "private contractor" for the SOC, or be killed because of his excessively dangerous powers. Taking the choice that will keep him alive, Britton is put to work using his gate-creating powers to support military operations as part of a unit known as "Shadow Coven" - a small squad of magic-using contractors with skills in using the dangerous prohibited schools of magic. As the book progresses, Britton is forced to grapple with issues of personal and national loyalty, freedom versus security, and his own status as a superhuman who is effectively enslaved by his own government and military.The second book, Fortress Frontier, was released on January 29, 2013. In addition to continuing Britton's story, it introduces a new character, Colonel Alan Bookbinder, who is drafted into the SOC after turning up Latent, with an as-yet-unknown school. In the aftermath of a violent disaster at the climax of the previous book, he has to take command of the remaining forces at FOB Frontier, deep within the Source, and lead them to safety.The series provides a uniquely realistic and military spin on the traditional Urban Fantasy setting with abundant Gray and Grey Morality. While there are political undercurrents, they are largely background elements. It has been described as "X-MenmeetsBlack Hawk Down" due to its combination of themes of metahuman superpowers and military fiction.
Arc Words: "Skill Beats Will." Latents with SOC training are better killers than Selfers. Interestingly, the author himself disagrees with this; in his words,
Myke Cole: The key to any kind of unarmed combat is commitment. If you see two people squaring off to fight, watch them closely. The person backing up is more than likely going to lose. The person advancing is more than likely going to win. There’s also a principle of “explosive violence,” which I learned here (it’s one of the bigger schools where security contractors are trained before deploying). It’s funny, one of the mottos I have in the SHADOW OPS universe is “Skill beats Will.” That works for magic, but in real life, it’s the opposite. Explosive violence is a low skill, high will approach.
Affably Evil: Scylla. In Fortress Frontier is is revealed that she was actually a corporate executive, right up until her powers Manifested and she was taken down by a SOC unit.
SOC in general. Unregulated Latents, AKA "Selfers", can do horrifying amounts of damage without even trying. When they do try they can kill dozens of people in minutes. Organized ones have held the Southwest for years. However, their method of handling the situation is essentially enslaving and brainwashing children to kill people they don't like.
The Goblin "Defender" tribes are simply reacting violently to an invasion by the technologically more-advanced humans.
The Native American tribes of the Southwest had a statistically greater number of Latents, and were thus marked for conscription. Instead, they chose to revolt en masse. When SOC formed, their superior skills threatened to win the day, resulting in them making deals with some rather unpleasant shadow-creatures.
In the final confrontation, Britton has to fight the rest of Shadow Coven as well as Harlequin and a number of SOC redshirts.
Britton's powers are considered a prohibited school because of their destructive potential, but ultimately he's a good guy at heart.
Truelove is a Necromancer, and one of the nicest and friendliest guys you'll meet.
Therese technically counts, as she used a "bad" application of Physiomancy in the form of rending, but is otherwise a kind person who just wants to heal people.
The Beastmaster: "Whispering," an illegal application of terramancy, allows for control of animals. This control is also very extreme, overriding the animal's natural instincts and thoughts and turning them into remote-controlled killing machines.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Therese is described as one of the most beautiful women that Britton has ever met, and she also happens to be one of the kindest and gentlest. She also has healing powers on top of that.
Big Bad: Two of them: Scylla, the lunatic Negramancer who, by the time of Fortress Frontier, has taken control of the Gahe which are backing both the Mescalero rebellion and the Goblin Defenders and President Walsh.
Big Damn Heroes: Britton's gate magic lets him specialize in this, and at the climax of Fortress Frontier, he gates in an entire National Guard rapid-response unit to save FOB Frontier, and then turns around and gates in Marty's entire Goblin tribe to save the National Guard.
Black Magic: Referred to as Negramancy, which is the power of entropy and rot.
Blob Monster: The Physiomancer inside the subway tunnels below New York City manifests as this. its only through some quick thinking by Britton and creative use of necromancy and gate magic that they stop it.
Body Horror: Physiomancy allows one to shape flesh to heal. It also allows one to engage in "Rending" which involves shaping flesh and living tissue to harm or kill. Late in Control Point, Shadow Coven has to fight a Physiomancer who does this to her own body, making a nearly unkillable Blob Monster.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The members of Shadow Coven are only permitted to live because their prohibited powers are extremely rare and powerful. Scylla, despite being a psychotic lunatic convinced that magic-users are superior to regular humans and who can kill hundreds without much effort, is kept alive and contained because her powers are just that valuable. Britton eventually learns that the SOC intends to lobotomize her to make her controllable.
Britton takes advantage of this during the final confrontation with Harlequin. Harlequin is trying to subdue Britton without killing him because they want his gate-forming powers. This lets Britton lure him into a trap when he jumps off the side of a building.
Chekhov's Gunman: The teenage girl at the start of the book who summons elementals shows up later on at the SOC base in the Source as a part of Shadow Coven.
Civil War: The USA is experiencing one in the American Southwest between the federal government and Native American tribes, which appears to be backed by some kind of demonic entities from within the Source. The Caliphate is experiencing one between normal humans and the "djiin-born."
Colonel Badass: Colonel Alan Bookbinder earns the Badass part during the course of Fortress Frontier.
Curbstomp Battle: Britton leading his team against Scylla and her Gahe minions early on in Fortress Frontier. It doesn't end well for them.
Cutting the Knot: When conducting a hostage-rescue mission, Britton is confronted with an enemy who is willing to use a bomb vest to kill the hostages, and said bomb vest has a deadman's switch. How does Britton deal with it? He uses a Portal Cut to sever the wire connecting the detonator to the vest.
The Dark Arts: Any of the four Prohibited Schools: Negramancy, Portamancy, Necromancy, and Sentient Elemental Conjuration. There's also Rending (the use of Physiomancy to kill) and Whispering (use of Terramancy to control animals).
Deadly Decadent Court: The Naga Raajya is a more subdued example, but they're still an example of this based simply on the opulence of their palace and how they treat their rulers and humans.
Death World: The Source. Legions of hostile goblins, giant birds, casowary-analogues that shoot massive sonic-booms, and demonic, violent horses that imitate the cries of their victims right before killing them are just the start. There's also titantic multilegged river crocodiles, actual dragons, the Agni Danav - a hostile race of burning, demonic bull-headed beasts who lay claim to regions by erupting volcanoes over their territory - and the Gahe smoke demons creatures. And this is just a small sampling of the monsters roaming the Source.
Distracted by the Sexy: Scylla's first escape attempt involved her distracting the guard assigned to Suppress her this way. She only needed a moment of freedom to start wreaking havoc.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: At least one SOC screed is little more than a fascist declaration that anyone with magic must sacrifice themselves for the good of the state and society.
Double Standard: In-universe, how a Latent is treated depends on who they are. Ordinary people who turn up Latent are conscripted or hunted. Rich people, professional sports players, famous actors, or the children of Senators? They get completely different treatment.
Differently Powered Individual: Humans who can use magic are called "Latents". Latents who manifest in one of the Prohibited schools are called "Probes". Any Latent who refuses to surrender to the military is termed a "Selfer."
Even Sociopathic Soldiers Have Standards: Harlequin is an eager SOC hardliner who genuinely enjoys hazing recalcitrant trainees, killing rebel magic users as well as any mundanes who dare to aid them, and combat in general. However, when President Walsh orders him to abandon FOB Frontier to die, he frees Bookbinder and Britton with no strings attached and begs them to help rescue the base - despite the inevitable political fallout that could almost certainly lead to civil war.
Explosive Leash: An Asset Tracking/Termination Device is planted in Britton's heart to force him to cooperate.
Fantastic Drug: Dampener, which is used to control emotions and let magic-users control their powers more effectively. Britton notes that if Dampener were to be released to the general public, it would greatly reduce the threat of out-of-control Latents, and uses this as one his many reasons to despise the SOC.
It is stated that Limbic Dampener is far more expensive than other drugs. Even the SOC saves it for "particularly valuable magical assets" like Britton.
Fantastic Racism: Normal humans toward Latents, humans and Latents toward Probes, and humans in general toward Goblins.
The Caliphate, a fundamentalist Islamic superstate that sprung up in the Middle East and Europe, takes this to extremes: all Latents, no matter who they are, are to be killed on sight due to the Caliphate's strict interpretation of the Qur'an. This leads to frequent and violent riots and fighting between Caliphate military-police and Latents who call themselves the "djiin-born''.
Fatal Flaw: Britton will do anything to protect his allies. Including monumentally stupid acts like freeing an insane Latent-supremacist with the power to rust and rot everything within her line of sight.
Functional Magic: Pretty much one of the fundamental cornerstones of the series. Magic follows strict, understandable rules, even when its something totally new, like Bookbinder's powers.
Golem: Elemental Latents can create these (called "elementals") out of their respective elements, though they are little more than extensions of their creator. Sentient Elemental Conjurers can create self-aware elemental golems assuming the elemental material is available.
Good Powers, Bad People: Any physiomancer using Rending, like the lunatic loose in the NYC sewers. There's also the head SOC medic, who is only a doctor in the most technical terms, as he spends most of his time cutting up bodies in the labs and administering lobotomies to Latents who don't behave, and is generally an entitled jackass who has to be bribed to use his physiomancy powers to actually heal someone.
Gray and Grey Morality: Everywhere. The Selfers are individuals with little or no control over their powers an cause widespread destruction. The Indian uprisings are more organized but even more violent, with the bonus of practicing human sacrifice to enhance their powers. The SOC that fights both of them is necessary to prevent widescale destruction, but they are also essentially a death squad staffed by Stockholm Syndrome slaves - and because they have the best training, they're the best killers. Exemplified in the final confrontation, where Britton ends up fighting most of his own Shadow Coven, and killing one of them and severely wounding the rest, after he goes rogue.
Groin Attack: When a Pyromancer tries to rape Downer and sets his crotch on fire, she creates fire elementals from it.Ow.
Healing Physiomancy involves this. Most of the time it is painless, but when the physiomancer is asked to do something very complex like extract the Explosive Leash from Britton's heart the pain involved can be lethal by itself.
Hydromancy is nowhere as effective as physiomancy, but it does allow a hydromancer to treat burn victims, which are quite common injuries where the SOC is involved.
Heel-Face Turn: Harlequin in Fortress Frontier, once he realizes how corrupt and self-serving President Walsh is.
Hot-Blooded: Britton generally makes his decisions in the heat of the moment, out of fear for himself or his allies. This is his biggest flaw, and results in a lot of the damage he accidentally inflicts on everyone around him. At the same time, it also leads to some of his most spectacular moments of heroism, such as holding off an entire fortress of Goblins by himself to save the crew of his helicopter.
Hypocrite: Harlequin in particular and the SOC in general. Harlequin says that the law is immutable and that it gives him and the SOC the authority to carry out his killings of Selfers and Probes, but he and the SOC are all too swift to snap up any Probes they can because of how useful their powers are, up to an including a Person of Mass Destruction like Scylla.
The SOC's hypocrisy is half the reason why President Walsh refuses to rescue FOB Frontier. The only way to save the base would require a massive evacuation effort that would demand a Portamancer, which is a Prohibited talent that the SOC has repeatedly denied they use, and they'd have no way to hide that they were using one during such a massive evacuation.
Inhumanable Alien Rights: Latents in general. The best a Latent can expect from SOC is to be treated as a useful tool. Stop being useful and they'll just lobotomize you and use you like a piece of machinery.
Jerkass: Fitzy is pretty much a titanic asshole, and gets violent when drunk.
Kick the Dog: When Scylla escapes, the first thing she does is kill Salamander, then dozens of other SOC soldiers nearby.
Kill It with Fire: How Britton manages to take out the Blob Monster Physiomancer in the New York sewers. He essentially opens a gate to the SASS, and has one of the most powerful pyromancers cut loose through the gate to burn it down.
Knight Templar: Fitzy believes that he has to treat Shadow Coven like dangerous, living nuclear weapons because they're too dangerous for regular society.
Lethal Harmless Powers: Whispering lets the magic user control animals. Getting swarmed by thousands of enraged rats, spiders, and other tiny animals is very lethal.
The Magic Versus Technology War: The conflict between the SOC inside the Source and the Goblin "Defender" tribes. The Caliphate is engaged in a magic vs. technology civil war because their interpretation of Islamic law holds that anyone with magical abilities is to be executed immediately, resulting in constant running battles between government military-police and the "djiin-born" rebels.
Majorly Awesome: Major Jan Thorsson aka Harlequin. Even Britton who dislikes him admits he is impressive.
Make Them Rot: The book series has random people manifesting powerful magical powers. On rare occasions one of these powers is Negramancy, the power to accelerate entropy. When it is used, objects crumble to dust in seconds and living things start to rot and decay. The power is casually called Witchcraft or Black Magic and its use is prohibited under the penalty of death.
The Man Behind the Man: The black-skinned demonic entities known as Gahe (or Black Mountain Gods) who appear to be behind both the suddenly-violent magic-wielding Native American rebels in the US southwest, and also seem to be backing the more violent Goblin Defender tribes. Their precise motivations and purpose are unclear.
Might Makes Right: The main difference between SOC and the Selfers. The SOC has mind-stablizing drugs, state-of-the-art weapons, and most importantly, the US Armed Forces' tried-and-true methods of turning teenage dropouts into skilled killers. "Skill Beats Will."
Moral Myopia: Initially, Britton condemns the SOC for treating Latents as threats to be shot on sight instead of people, but when he manifests a proscribed ability he proceeds to freak out and run, in the process killing two people by accident - one of them being his own father. At this point he has a breakdown over his myopia.
Muggles Do It Better: The Goblins have numbers, large amounts of Sorcerers, dragons, massive rocs, giants, and the backing of the Gahe. Humans have machineguns, tanks, Strykers, Apache helicopters, and A-10 Warthogs. The only reason that FOB Frontier is overrun is because half the base was leveled by Scylla and they were cut off from resupply when the SOC's only Portamancer was killed.
My Master, Right or Wrong: Harlequin's opinion on the SOC. But when President Walsh essentially orders that there be no rescue attempt for FOB Frontier until after the next election to avoid the horrible press that would result, Harlequin decides that he's had enough.
Muggles: Nonmagical humans, which make up the majority of the human population. Scylla views them as little more than cattle and slaves to Latents.
Mundane Utility: Countless examples. Hydromancy is used to treat burn wounds and heat up cold showers, Terramancy gets used to clean mud-splattered clothes, and Whispering is used to get animals to clean up.
It turns out that magic is being misused by the United States; the Super Registration Act practiced by the United States forces all Latents to join the military or go under permanent suppression. China, however, allows Latents to work for various engineering companies, allowing them to pull off construction projects at incredible speed and with minimal expense.
Even in combat, magic gets used for surprisingly mundane tasks. Hydromancy, for example, is used during an assault to freeze locks to make them brittle so they can be quietly cut, or to weaken a metal door so that it can be smashed down quickly without needing a battering ram.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Britton tends to cause as much trouble as he fixes, starting with accidentally killing his father and a police officer with uncontrolled gates, and culminating in letting Scylla loose.
No One Gets Left Behind: Britton refusing to leave anyone behind during the botched recon mission to one of the Goblin camps. Fitzsimmons gets infuriated when Britton risks his life to save him, because Britton is too valuable a weapon.
Not So Different: In the end, Britton realizes that this is the case with the Selfers and the SOC - both kill to enforce their will, neither have any care for innocent people caught in the crossfire, and the SOC are simply better killers.
One-Man Army: Shadow Coven is explicitly described as being made up of magic users who fill this role. Downer can create countless elementals that act on their own, Truelove can animate any dead body, Richards can control entire legions of animals, and Britton's gate abilities give him incredible destructive potential and mobility.
One Person, One Power: One person can only manifest a single school, except for the fact that everyone with powers can alsosuppress the powers of others if they bother to learn how.
Origin Story: Control Point comes off as this for Britton and his companions in general. Fortress Frontier is one for Bookbinder.
Our Demons Are Different: Two known types: the Gahe, which are demonic beings revered by the Mescalero rebels as "Black Mountain Gods" who can Flash Step and are apparently made of icy-cold smoke. The second type are the Agni Danav, which are huge, flaming bull-like creatures who mark their territory by creating erupting volcanoes around it.
Our Giants Are Bigger: The Goblin Defenders have some kind of massive variant of Goblin that tower a dozen feet tall, and are strong enough the grab Blackhawks or Abrams tank turrets and use them as clubs.
Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins are natives of the Source who are far more likely to turn up Latent. They resemble small humanoids with enormous heads, pointy ears, and long noses. They are split between Defender tribes which react violently to human incursion, and Embracer tribes, which welcome humans.
Snake People: The naga, which appear as enormous creatures with snake-like lower bodies, humanoid torsos, many humanlike arms, and multiple snake heads. They're a particularly arrogant lot, viewing humans as children who need to be governed properly.
Our Presidents Are Different: President Walsh, the current US President, is a combination of President Corrupt and President Jerkass. In his brief scene with Harlequin in Fortress Frontier, he makes it clear that he believes that the corrupt, hypocritical, and brutal treatment of magic by the SOC is the only way to properly control magic users, and also essentially condemns FOB Frontier to being overrun by Goblins because a rescue attempt would result in a massive secrecy breach about FOB Frontier and the use of Probes, which would all but doom his reelection chances. On top of that, he issues a not-so-subtle order to Harlequin to execute Bookbinder if he doesn't cooperate. Needless to say, Harlequin takes all of this...poorly.
Scylla. When others are talking about her, they say that she killed about twenty or thirty people the last time she got loose. When Britton sets her free, she destroys the entire FOB perimeter defenses, killing hundreds of people, with about as much trouble as crushing ants.
Britton is one as well, once he fully understands how to use his powers. Between instant teleportation to wherever he wants to go, the ease by which he can Portal Cut (see below), insane mobility, and the ability to use his gates as shields and means to attack from unexpected directions, he can cause tremendous destruction with just a bit of creativity.
Most Probes in general, as Whispering, Necromancy, and Elemental Conjuration effectively allow them to field entire armies at the drop of a hat.
Pet the Dog: Scylla won't hesitate to massacre her captors, but when she escapes from her Suppression and starts slaughtering the SOC guards around the SASS compound, she deliberately avoids harming any of the students/prisoners because she cares about them.
Portal Cut: Britton's gates instantly sever any solid material if they manifest over it, or if something is halfway through the gate. This makes him insanely deadly once he knows how to use it.
Post Modern Magic: When you're manifesting magical gates in order to throw Black Hawk helicopters at people, you know you're in this genre.
Power Incontinence: Newly-manifesting Latents cannot control their powers, and if their emotions get out of control they can cause massive destruction. Drawing too much magical power can cause a magic-user to "go nova" and kill themselves.
One of the worst examples is Wavesign, who can't control his hydromancy. Subverted. He's fully in control, he's just hiding it as an SOC plant inside the SASS.
Suppression is a skill available to any Latent that allows them to cut off the magic of other Latents. The US Marines use what are referred to as "Suppression Lances" which are squads of Latents whose sole job is to Suppress enemy magic-users so they can be taken down with conventional weapons.
Bookbinder's power is the ability to not simply Suppress someone's magic, but actually rip it out an bind it to an object.
Private Military Contractors: All the members of Shadow coven are technically mercenary contractors working for a corporation called Entertech. In reality, they're effectively conscripts who only get to remain relatively free as long as they work for the SOC.
Psycho for Hire: The Sculptor, a SOC Physiomancer who has no issues with using Rending to torture information out of people.
Rescue Romance: One-sided; Downer has a major crush on Harlequin because she feels he "rescued" her after the high school rampage at the beginning.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Salamander, head of the SASS, which is essentially a prison/school to hold captured Latents in an effort to educate them in controlling their powers and to join the SOC.
Redshirt Army: Regular Army troops, SOC assault troops, and NYPD SWAT Teams all get this treatment. Harlequin even explicitly describes Britton's Army unit as something that will "just get in my way" at the beginning.
Retired Badass: Stanley Britton, Oscar's father. Former Marine Force Recon, retired Colonel, and fully capable of surviving on his own for months in the Source without anything more than the clothes on his back.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: His Highness Vasuki-Kai, Naga envoy from the Naga Raajya, a prince of one of the major kingdoms in the Source, is an arrogant, pompous royal. But when Bookbinder needs to get the Raajya's help, he doesn't hesitate to guide the team across thousands of miles of harsh Source landscape, leaps into combat without an ounce of fear and wielding a whole lot of weaponry, and stands watch every night thanks to his unusual naga biology.
Shame If Something Happened: Britton is given a look at the only other living portomancer, Billy, who was "uncooperative" but deemed useful. The SOC lobotomized him, turning him into a childlike retard who they could use to create gates at will. Though not stated outright, the threat to Britton is made clear.
Shoot the Dog: SOC's job regarding Latents who don't surrender. At the end of Control Point, Britton has to kill Billy, the lobotomized Portamancer being used by the SOC so that he and the rest of the escapees can be free.
His viewpoint scenes in Fortress Frontier show Harlequin to be much more sympathetic than Britton's comparatively limited perspective. He does deeply care about his fellow Americans, especially the close-knit group of SOC Sorcerers, and when FOB Frontier is cut off, he comes close to risking his career trying to get help to them. He also starts to question the administration he served so loyally when he learns President Walsh is going to let Frontier rot until after the election because he doesn't want to risk the terrible press that a rescue operation involving a Portamancer would inflict on him.
Spirit World: The Source, which is an alternate reality where all sorts of monsters come from.
Spiritual Antithesis: To Shadowrun. In the RPG, when The Magic Comes Back, Indian tribes drive the government off their ancestral lands with magic and Mega Corps are able to seize power from national governments in the chaos. In Shadow Ops, Reality Ensues. The military is the first to refine magical power to a fine edge, the US military is among the best in the world, and quickly increase government power by means of "Skill Beats Will." Therefore, the tribes are in an ongoing war to keep the territory, and only holding on due to their willingness to use Black Magic. Corporations have been denied Latent assets at SOC-point - in Fortress Frontier, Scylla is revealed to be a Fortune 500 CEO the SOC snatched up as legally as a loose penny. As for Japanese ascendance? They're dependent on American assets for defense, so they probably have to surrender their Latents to the American SOC. China has a healthier economy than America in Shadow Ops because their government shares Latent assets with their corporations.
The Squad: Shadow Coven eventually develops into this.
Stockholm Syndrome: SOC's preferred method of recruiting Latents. Hold out too long and they'll lobotomize you. Britton almost succumbs to it due to his pre-Latency life as a US soldier, but breaks free easily once he realizes that the similarities between the SOC and the Army are superficial - where the Army's purpose is to protect the defenseless, SOC's purpose is to turn Latents into obedient killing machines.
Therese and Swift actively resist the Stockholm treatment, and while Swift never joins SOC, Therese eventually breaks down when the SOC convinces her to help treat wounded in the base's infirmary, which shows her just how much good she can do with her powers.
Downer is hit by this so hard that by the time of Fortress Frontier, she willingly goes back to the SOC when given the chance.
Summon Magic: Gates can bring hostile, uncontrolled creatures into the Home Plane. Sentient Elemental Conjuration allows a Latent to create active elementals out of local materials or energy that act on their own.
Super Registration Act: A core element of the story is how the laws surrounding use of magic affects people, and how just/unjust the legal oppression/conscription of magic-users is. Britton doubts whether it is justified, and steadily shifts to opposing it outright, while Harlequin strongly believes in the necessity of the SOC and controlling magic-users, despite the flaws in the system.
Britton: ''We came here to escape. We've done that. Killing more people won't accomplish anything. That's what Selfers do. We're not Selfers, Swift. We're not SOC. We're the real good guys, and it's time we started acting like it. I'm through with magic as a bludgeon. It stops here.
Taking You with Me: One of the Native American rebels tries to use an explosive vest to kill several hostages when Britton and a rescue team come after them. Britton simply uses a gate to cut the cord connecting the detonator to the vest.
Took a Level in Badass: In Fortress Frontier, Bookbinder goes from being a J1 admin officer who never fired a weapon in his life at the start of the book to pretty much being Patton reincarnated by the end, even managing to kill Goblin giants with nothing but a spear and some stolen magic.
True Companions: A naga and its Bandhav form this sort of bond, with the Bandhav being a chosen human companion serving roughly somewhere between a child and a sibling. Harming a naga's Bandhav is considered as much an affront as harming the naga itself, and the naga will go to great lengths to protect the Bandhav, even shielding them with their own bodies.
The Unmasqued World: While magic is publically known, what's really going on (i.e. US military use of Probes, the nature of the Source, the existence of FOB Frontier) is kept hidden...up until Britton gates onto the White House lawn with the surviving SOC troops at the end of Control Point. While the government hurries to do damage control over this, the climax of Fortress Frontier involves Britton and Bookbinder gating all of FOB Frontier's troops - a division-sized force - plus a National Guard quick-reaction force directly in front of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in full public view, while fighting Goblins. Bookbinder notes that President Walsh will have a terrific time trying to explain all of that away.
Vicious Cycle: An underlying theme. Uncontrolled Latents cause widespread destruction through their wild and violent powers. Laws are passed to strictly and harshly regulate them to protect society. Selfers oppressed by these laws and terrified of what might be done to them run or fight back, necessitating harsher laws and more heavy-handed military policing to control them, which pushes the Selfers to greater acts of desperate violence to escape what is essentially a choice between slavery or execution....the process continues until someone like Britton chooses to break the system.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Good Physiomancers can manage this. Untrained one can become horrific blob monsters, while skilled ones can alter their appearance. Extremely capable ones, like the Sculptor, can imitate specific people.
Whatevermancy: All magical schools except Sentient Elemental Conjuration are named this way.
What the Hell, Hero?: Britton gets this from everyone in Fortress Frontier. The first couple of chapters involving him deal almost entirely with him dealing with the reality of the aftermath of his rebellion against the SOC and the destruction of both part of FOB Frontier by releasing Scylla and the killing of Billy.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Scylla possesses tremendously dangerous and powerful Negramancy, and is completely batshit crazy too. She's so powerful that it takes multiple Latents to even attempt to Suppress her.
You Are in Command Now: the basic plot of Fortress Frontier, for both Britton (leading a small group of rogue Probes on the run from SOC) and Bookbinder (an admin officer forced into command of FOB Frontier).