Man of War is an exciting action-thriller and phenomenal debut for Sean Parnell. Featuring protagonist Eric Steele, Man of War holds the same level of being crazy but not entirely unbelievable as stories like Jason Bourne and John Wick. Steele is a badass among badasses in a secret government program called the Program. The Program is a typical action story secret organization; a black ops group that goes in and kills bad guys. No politics, no red tape. They simply take out targets. Which works out well until they are betrayed by one of their own, Steele’s mentor.
Parnell has written another book about his own military experience, but Man of War is his first work of fiction. Steele and other military characters are written in a way only someone with firsthand experience could manage. Thrillers like this are filled with tropes, Man of War being no exception, but Parnell’s writing stands out with how his characters act. The way Steele walks, talks, and behaves all comes off as very real. He is in every way a soldier, as he lives and breathes. And as much as his skills are essential, it makes things harder as he faces off against a former brother-in-arms.
The story also stands out because Steele is not invincible. He is very good at what he does, the best of the best, but is still a man. Even with the training and resources at his disposal, he is just one man. Things can potentially go south due to factors outside his control. Steele is not the sort of protagonist who will go into a fight outnumbered and walk away clean. The fight will be dirty, and he may not come out unscathed. It added a depth of realism in a genre filled with Mary Sue supermen.
Along with the military action, the story also features a political element. Readers see various high-level government officials working against each other. The good guys focused on the safety of the nation and the bad guys focused on their own personal gain. Pieces of the sub-plot felt off, with its conclusion a little rushed, but it provided a good secondary antagonist. All in all, Man of War was a whirlwind of action and suspense drizzled with good pacing and great characterization.