Villain’s Code 1 may have been the first thing by Drew Hayes that I read. Now that it was finally time for a sequel, I was kind of excited to see that world again. Villain’s Code 2 is titled Bones of the Past and that’s pretty much an accurate description on a couple of levels.
First, the main focus of book 1, Tori, who is now a new villain starting to find her place in the world, is not as much the focus; but she’s here and she starts making progress figuring out what she wants to do now that she’s graduated from villain training. In fact, a lot of her generation both villain and hero aren’t really the focus with a handful of notable exceptions. The main thing this novel seems to be really about is Ivan and Fornax, and by association Helen and Loadstar. The backstories are dark and pretty bleak, but because you know how Ivan and Helen end up, it’s almost not as bad or maybe it’s worse. There’s also more time spent with Ivan and his family and how things are changing there too, and it’s both mundane and kind of sad but also just real.
The actual plot has to do with the introduction of a set of new characters; Professor Quantum (first meta-human and hero leader along with Loadstar and Quorum) has revived the Science Sentries team with new members and there’s some insinuated darkness with how he chose and trained his new group. The newbie team is supposed to be the best ever as a legacy team, and yet they have problems when then start working out in the world. This is where Tori gets involved, and so is Donald, her friend who obviously likes her maybe more than that, who becomes a new hero in the previous novel. He doesn’t know Tori is a villain, but she knows his secret hero identity. You can guess the tension there. Donald as Cyber Geek is one of the few characters of Tori’s set who does get some actual character development.
We also learn more about Chloe and even a bit more about Beverly’s family (Beverly is a fellow new villain, and Chloe is their roommate). Nexus also seems to pop back in to drop hints and make manipulative suggestions, although I have to admit some of the hints are intriguing.
Besides the general complexity of the world (much building happens) and characters, there is also just moments of cleverness that stand out. Some of the plot references are cliché, like the fight tournament to save the Earth from the aliens invaders (there are a lot of aliens in this book, and there weren’t in the last one, but then again if you think of any standard long running comic hero series, this does tend to be at least one plot arc). My favorite bit takes place during some downtime in Tori, Beverly, and Chloe’s apartment building. They are socializing a little with the Science Sentries who have no idea who Tori and Beverly really are, and Chloe says something about another character not being “my flavor of ice cream”, which leads to the question “What is?” I have to paraphrase here because the novel is just over 850 pages, and I’m not going hunting for one or two lines of dialog in that; Chloe’s answer just stuck with me as smart and entertaining; it’s “What flavor would pansexual be? Maybe sherbet?” First it’s a light-hearted way to consider that question, and in a way, a flavor that’s often done as a combination off 3-4 others would kind of fit Chloe’s identification.
I mentioned earlier two reasons the title was fitting; the second has to do with the reveal of who the main villain of the story is which of course you don’t find out until nearly the end. You’ll just to read the story to find out the details; before you do though, make sure you read book 1 (Forging Hephaestus). You’d miss a lot without the context.