Title: I Did This: The KiTeku Chronicles
Author: Ben McFadden
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction / Young Adult
I Did This is the first installment of a new urban fantasy series about a young woman with a traumatic past and, it turns out, dormant powers. After the unexplained destruction of her hometown on the night of her prom, Nathalie is unable to handle her grief and sustain her sanity. At a crucial turning point, Nathalie is suddenly engulfed in a long-running conflict between several shadowy organizations, all of which are intent on kidnapping her. By ultimately facing these groups head-on, Nathalie begins to uncover the long-dark secrets of her past and, therefore, of herself.
The story is narrated by the main character from some point in the future, and the author uses this style to play with the reader in the form of dropped hints and foreshadowing. Though, at times, this form can interrupt the story—as when Nathalie uses a new character’s name, though there is no reason for her or the reader to know it—it is a teasing sort of writing, which fits well with Nathalie’s personality.
Nathalie is defiantly sarcastic, as are many of the other characters. Even when in danger, or engaged in brutal fight scenes, the humorous one-liners and satirical banter don’t let up. As a speculative work written with young audiences in mind, and featuring mainly teenage and young adult characters, this is a welcome wink and nod acknowledging the extravagances of the genre. The informal narrative may at times be distracting, though, as there is repetitive use of language, such as “seems to,” “kind of,” and “sort of.”
Nathalie is able only to uncover what is actually going on around her in drips and drabs, so the reader is along for the ride with her confusion, misplaced anger, and misunderstandings. From meeting the enigmatic man she calls Gray, to her abduction by the different factions in turn (the Immortals, the KiTeku, and the Eternal) Nathalie and the reader are both a step or two behind true understanding of the stakes and conflict.
The plot sweeps along quickly, with short peaceful periods cut off by sudden—often literal—explosive action. Many times, conflict descends into hand-to-hand combat. All the characters including, eventually, Nathalie herself, engage in a Japanese martial arts-inspired fighting style, though differentiated by the use of their quasi-scientific semi-magical powers.
With engaging characters, inventive fight scenes, narrow escapes, and many explosions, the book would appeal to fans of the Marvel Universe. The real-world setting and vast underground facilities make it also interesting to those who prefer urban sci-fi, while the heavy Japanese influence in the philosophies and fighting styles may make this an easy sell for anime fans.
With I Did This, McFadden has created an underworld of rival factions vying for power, made more complex by the inscrutable allegiances of the characters therein. It’s a story of good versus evil, but one where a maze of motives makes it tough to tell which is which. As the first in the series, it serves as an origin story of sorts for Nathalie, but it carries its weight with truly unexpected plot twists and an ending that ramps up the suspense for the sequel.
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