"A phenomenal superhero romance, a brilliant debut!"
The Superhero romance genre is small but what is available
runs the gamut from the larger than life, comic bookish
variety to the dark, edgy type you might compare to
Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" 2008 Batman movie.
PHENOMENAL GIRL 5 falls into the latter category and it
totally knocked my socks off! The character driven tale made
me cry more than once, it felt so real. I read it all in one
sitting because I simply couldn't put it down.
The story takes place in Megalopolis and is narrated by
Lainey Livingston a.k.a. Phenomenal Girl 5 (she had 4
predecessors, either retired or deceased). A power plant
accident which killed both of her parents (her mother had
lived just long enough to give birth to her) was responsible
for her powers of super strength and flight.
Lainey had been thrown into the foster care system until her
powers had emerged in her preteen years. Then she'd been
tested and sent to The School For Children With Supernatural
Powers. Having no family, she'd always felt like a misfit.
She'd been a loner in school and frequently tormented by her
peers. Her sole focus was to someday become a member of the
top superhero cadre the Elite Hands of Justice, and they
only took the cream of the crop. The team had visited the
school once and as luck would have it she'd been locked in
the closet by her tormentors. But she'd been let out by a
tall and handsome team member who had given her the hope
that she had what it took.
Lainey had worked her way through the ranks working with the
Red Knights before going to law school, and then she'd
joined the Power Squad. She'd been pre-tested for the EHJ
several times and then at last she'd gotten an interview
with their leader Benjamin Rath. Having passed muster with
Rath, Lainey still had one more obstacle to overcome -- a
year training period, partnering with the reclusive and
powerful Reincarnist. The former EHJ member had recently
been responsible for the wash out of the last candidate,
Pushstar. Talk about daunting, but Lainey vows not to let
Robert Elliot intimidate her.
Robert Elliot, the current incarnation of the Reincarnist,
is a top level magic-user and considered to be the most
intelligent man alive due to living multiple lives (Dr. Who
been a pirate, a poet, and a soldier among other things.
He'd lived in many places and fought in every major war the
world had known. He'd died a hundred deaths but each time
he'd regenerated at the cellular level and remerged at age
20, a new man. He'd always retained enough memory to
continue in his role but more often than not had kept no
memories of those who had been near and dear to him in his
previous life. Having to live with the pain and resentment
of those he'd forgotten wore on his soul. Robert was
standoffish to say the least. He'd once been a member of the
EJH, having founded it in a past life, but had withdrawn
from active membership because the group had become too
commercial. He was distant, formal, in other words he drove
Lainey crazy! But there was something in his eyes, a soft
kindness that drew her in spite of herself. In Robert's
defense, Lainey is completely unlike any trainee he's dealt
There's something different about Lainey Livingston from her
choice of costume, so practical compared to the sexy, flashy
uniforms of her predecessors, to her sassy mouth. She
challenged him. Robert found that he enjoyed partnering with
her, perhaps a bit too much. She was unique, a pure soul,
driven to heroism, and in his opinion the grandstanding EJH
was not worthy of her. It is the purity of her soul that
finds her the focus of a fiendish plot by a new threat "The
Dragon" to unleash his master, the Dark One, on an
With the EJH off world dealing with alien affairs instead of
attending to their own, it's up Robert and Lainey to deal
with the threat. But, its Lainey that The Dragon needs to
create the "Darklight" who would someday unleash the Dark
One on the world, and Robert will do anything, even if it
means sacrificing what could be his last life, to keep her
safe. Should he return he knew that chances were good that
he would have no memory of their time together. Either way
he'd lose her, but he couldn't imagine a world without her
in it. Such a world wouldn't be worth saving.
Ms. Menden's characterizations are so brilliant that for the
reader Megolopolis, the world, the EJH, and even the
fiendish plot come in a distant second to the relationship
evolving between Lainey and The Reincarnist. The story
forces the reader to invest their own emotions, ripping us
apart and putting us back together again. All I can say is
Wow! PHENOMINAL GIRL 5 is a stunning debut - a definite
keeper - highly recommended!
But that's not all! Book 2, TEKGRRL, featuring EJH heroine
Mindy Clark is on the way. I can't wait.
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted August 5, 2008
True love can be super rough...
**A PNR Staff Top Pick**
Lainey Livingston has just been made a member of the Elite Hands of Justice, the world's premiere cadre of superheroes. Her work with the Red Knights and the Power Squad was impressive; her apprehension stats are above normal, and her great strength and ability to fly are equally remarkable. But no one gets a free pass to active duty, and Lainey's next test is going to be her hardest. She's to train with the Reincarnist.
Robert Elliot, the Reincarnist. A magician who has lived multiple lifetimes, he's the smartest man in the world - and Lainey's last obstacle. He was personally responsible for seeing Pushstar wash out. But his eyes are the softest, kindest that Lainey has ever seen, and he's just the sort to knock her for a loop. Lesson #1: Romantic entanglements among crime fighters are super exploitable, and falling in love with a man who "can't die" is like waving a red flag at a bull. Especially not when the most fiendish plot ever is about to break over Megalopolis like a wave of fire.