Book Review: Unmasked by Kai Wai Cheah


Unmasked, Song of Karma Book 2, Heroes Unleashed Book 7, By Kai Wai Cheah & Thomas Plutarch


The blurb:

If you take the king’s shilling, you do the king’s killing.

Problems are stacking up for former police officer Adam Song. His court case for killing a drug lord’s son in the line of duty approaches, and it feels like all of Chinatown…and superherodom… are on trial too. The city is a powder keg, and Adam might just be the fire that sets it off.

He has to keep his head low and pay his bills until the entire circus is over. An old spook friend from his military days has a tempting offer for him, but Adam isn’t sure he wants to go back to that life. Government favors come with strings, and Adam is tired of being a puppet.

When his old friend, the abbot of Bright Moon Temple, is threatened from abroad, Adam takes the job to defend him. He needs the money even if the temple can only pay half the normal rate.

What should have been a simple bodyguard job spirals out of control. Even more bodies stack up on Adam’s watch, each one feeding the coals of anger in Halo City.

Can Adam save the Abbot and keep Halo City from burning itself to the ground? And do it all without calling in a favor that will turn him into a shady black-ops weapon?

And who is the shadowy supervillian from Serenity City fanning the flames? Read Unmasked today to find out!


This is our second outing with Adam Song, aka Amp, in a tense and tightly plotted story with thriller and procedural elements. He’s a no-nonsense kind of hero, willing to use maximum force to defend the innocent, much like the Punisher, but without a hint of the Marvel hero’s anger and possible psychopathy.


As you can see from the blurb, and if you’ve read book one, Unmasked comes fully armed with multiple sources of tension, primarily the threat of Adam’s conviction for excessive force. Movement from one plot point to the next is smooth and efficient, no time wasted.

If a scene’s not action packed, it’s setting up a mystery. If not mystery, then intrigue, and just as an answer is revealed, Adam is forced to lay the smack down on his foes. Truly engaging and enjoyable.


Adam himself is developed further from book one, as his nearly supernatural focus and patience are stress-tested intensely. 

Side characters are distinct and get their jobs done. Foremost among them is Adam’s abbot friend, who gets developed further from our brief interactions with him in book one. I really enjoyed this one, especially the interplay between his religious beliefs, martial practice and Prime power (unlimited stamina).

My second favorite side hero was Bloodhound, whose special powers you can perhaps guess from his name. We don’t necessarily go too deep with him, but he was still fun to have around.


Cheah’s got good chops. If you follow him on his blog or Twitter, you know the man writes like a beast, and it shows. Keywords for his prose could be lean, efficient, yet detailed (where it counts).

In particular he’s got an aptitude for fight sequences, so if you enjoy getting really crunch with the punches and bullets, this is the author for you.


Cheah’s writing often comes off slightly dry to me, apart from occasional bits of humor. And yet the author’s voice feels strong, pointed, direct and not wasteful of words. I never feel the temptation to skip or skim, because the things he’s describing matter to the story and the characters.

If I could wish for anything more from Cheah’s prose it would be a slight loosening, allowing a little more humor through onto the page. My brain always places him on my Neal Stephenson shelf, so that may account for this opinion to some degree.

No matter what he does next I’m happy to follow this author through his next million words and see what comes about!

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Mythos Project, or Conservative Retellings

  With the rise of big tech censorship and open calls to silence voices that do not agree with the zeitgeist, I’ve been slowly coming to a p...