The Heretic covers familiar territory. Secret Order of Templars working from the shadows to protect humanity. Vatican cover-ups. A rogue agent who is the only person in the order capable of stopping the evil that has been awakened. Evil cult hell bent upon, well, raising Hell. In the hands of a lesser writer, this would have been a boring “been there, done that. Got the t-shirt” exercise.
Nassise, however, brings much needed energy and excitement to the otherwise mundane (mundane for urban fantasy plots, anyway) storyline. His writing style is concise, hard-hitting, and designed to keep the plot moving forward at an almost breakneck pace. Reading The Heretic is very much like sitting through a big budget summer action film. There is just enough intrigue to keep the reader engaged, but not so much that the story becomes a convoluted mess (as often is the unfortunate case with this sort of story!). The Heretic is a perfect balance of action and mystery wrapped in a handsome bow.
There are two minor points that irritated me (though neither point is a “deal breaker” regarding whether or not you will enjoy the story overall).
The first is that some character behavior just felt inconsistent with the way the characters were described. Nassise puts a lot of thought into describing scenes and setting up his characters, which made some of the inconsistent behavior actually stand out more. Right in the opening, we’re introduced to a character that is described as having exceptional situational awareness and training. And not more than a page later, the guy absently steps in front of a bus. I completely understand that people do in fact do this (and I also realize that this was supposed to be a little foreshadowing). But the juxtaposition between how the character was described versus how he acted was jarring. There is a lot of this throughout the story, and I’m not sure if it is deliberate to force a response from the reader or inadvertent. In either case, it is sometimes distracting.
The second is that there are no women in this book that don’t end up dead (and even then, I only noticed two of any note). I’m not a crazed feminazi that demands central characters must be female or that all books are required to have strong female role models. I don’t read speculative fiction at my age looking for role models. I read to be entertained. But the absence of any women, even in minor roles, was strange. Particularly for an urban fantasy. I actually went back through my Kindle version and did a search for female pronouns, just to see if I may have skimmed over something. I’m completely fine with all of the central characters being male, particularly considering the plot. But the absence of even minor, secondary characters of the female gender was glaring.