The second instalment in the Sigma Force action-adventure series called Map of Bones, really does a phenomenal job of showing us how well James Rollins can improve his writing from one book to the next. This level of learning and growing is such a respectable trait and it’s just making me more and more excited to continue forth with this splendid serial. Map of Bones was another re-read for me.
A bloody massacre during a crowded service at a cathedral in Germany triggers a nightmarish hunt filled with mayhem, destruction, and biblical machinations. The treasure: the bones of the Magi that will pave the path to a phenomenal power strong enough to re-shape the world. With the Vatican in terrible turmoil, Sigma Force is called in to pursue the deadly mystery and stop the vicious murders before a much more dark and malevolent plan reaches its peak.
Once again, the Sigma Force gang charms us with full-throttle action sequences that further intensifies from one scene to the next. Unlike the first instalment, the vast scenic details never become tedious or repetitive. There is the perfect blend of atmosphere-building. You can feel yourself being transported to whatever situations the characters are in without an overwhelming flood of minute and unnecessary details. I feel like the way these cities and sceneries are depicted help to create an overall three-dimensional reading experience, if that makes any sense. Such impeccable improvement in writing from one book to the second is quite an admirable feat.
The action and adventure facets are balanced meticulously with an intelligent blending of the biblical lore, history, and conspiracies that make up the bulk of the backdrop and the overall foundation for the story in the novel. You can always tell with Rollins’ works that an exhaustive and wonderful depth of research goes into each and every book. Everything is richly structured and stimulating. The suspense is an elaborate seasoning to an already well-flavoured and highly complex plot, which keeps your rump on the edge of it’s seat with a restless anxiety. It’s a wonderful feeling when you want something that is adrenaline-pumping and compelling as all hell.
The romance, while still predictable, didn’t feel as out of place as the romance in Sandstorm. It was a lot more natural in nature with it’s evolution. The development of feelings and chemistry was subtle and flowed with whatever was occurring around and with these particular characters. When romance is realistic and believable like that, it further enhances a lot of other details in the book that you may or may not particularly realise on your first read-through.
There were only two mild issues that I discovered while reading this. The first is that there were one too many betrayals. As a trope that seems to be a regular participant in the Sigma Force novels, it was just a bit overdone here. I’m sincerely hoping that over the course of the series this trope will begin to take a back-seat or it may end up being banal. The second issue I had was with the finale. In hindsight, I can admit that it fits the book, especially with the foreshadowing and climax, but I still didn’t care for it much. There was a small pit in the middle of my stomach that felt unsatisfied and thirsty for something different than what unfolded.
All in all, the book was a great improvement over book one of the series. I like how the overarching story with particular characters is played out and I’m very curious to see how the cast will grow over the range of the next ten to eleven books in the serial. I think that will be the key in defining how Sigma Force works as a giant entity: the characters. If the improvements between the two novels are any indication, then I’m expectant of the serial to just get better and better and better.
4.25 lasers outta 5!