When Astrid asked me to edit “The Last Superhero,” a lot of thoughts went through my mind. It wasn’t my first full-length novel. I’d edited at least half a dozen before this one. It wasn’t even my first time editing her work – I’ve edited two full-length novels and some vignettes from her series, “The Caregiver.”

So why the hesitation?

Genre. Style.

She told me, “It’s sci-fi fantasy. And it’s written really loosely, in an almost lyrical format.”

Did she want me to run away screaming?

Anyone who knows my reading habits will tell you I don’t read science fiction. And as an editor, there are certain rules. The more a writer sticks to those rules, the easier it makes my life when I’m trying to polish the document.

But because Astrid is such a dear friend and I knew how much she wanted me to read this story, I agreed to look at a sample.

I then promptly ignored her email for a month while life was busy with other things. Worst friend and editor ever but I was terrified that once I read it I would confirm that I hated it and wouldn’t be able to edit it for her. How do you tell such a good friend that you think it’s horrible and you want no part of her dream?

Finally, my conscience wouldn’t let me put it off any longer. I sat down to read was at the time listed as a prologue and the first chapter. That prologue was everything I had feared – a giant robot thing and an elf and a werewolf? It was well-written; I knew Astrid could write amazing action sequences and she didn’t disappoint here, but it was so bizarre to me that I couldn’t get into it.

I moved on to Chapter One, hoping the problem was only that I had been given some preview without context, without knowing these characters. Maybe if I knew them better, I’d care more about their swords and ninja suits.

Chapter One, which she has generously posted for free, opens with Giana locking up her struggling bookstore for the evening. She’s hungry, she’s broke, she’s impatient with a straggling customer. Then a guy tries to mug her and instead of being whiny, she’s tough and sarcastic and argues back. Our titular superhero makes his appearance, and by the end of the chapter, I was so hooked that I emailed Astrid begging her to send me the rest.

Because ultimately, what Astrid does – whether it’s “The Last Superhero,” a sci-fi fantasy, or “The Caregiver” series, a crime-thriller saga, is focus on the human elements and interactions. So what if they happen to have certain powers or they’re drug lords? They also have friends and families and needs and wants. And the way she writes about all that makes me want to edit her words.

Speaking of her words, let’s go back to her looser, “almost lyrical format” for this one. Turns out it was very freeform and quite easy to edit. It’s also very easy to read.

I do a lot of editing for professional and corporate clients but I’ve been doing more novel editing recently, which I love. What it comes down to for me is consistency. Many rules aren’t set in stone for creative writing but I feel one of my primary responsibilities is to make sure the document follows the same rule throughout. I use Merriam-Webster as my go-to dictionary, for example, and under “travel,” they allow both “traveling” and “travelling.” I would be remiss if I allowed both versions to appear in the same story. Beyond that, let the freeform flow!

Once I received the rest of the chapters, I never regretted my decision. Even once I hit the heavier fantasy chapters. Even those with the elf and ninja suit and werewolf. By then, I knew the characters behind them, I knew the reason for their existence, and I was cheering them on.

And when I read the final chapter, I held my breath. When I read the final words, I cried. I put this book through multiple edits, including two thorough reads. I knew exactly what was coming the second time around and I cried again anyways. I also did a good amount of laughing.

Consider picking this up, either for yourself or a friend. It would make a great Christmas gift for avid readers (it’s a new release so you know they don’t have it yet!) and non-readers (it’s not super long, covers a lot of genres, and will appeal to men and women alike). Also, the cover is beautiful so it will just look nice on your shelf/coffee table/shelf.

Here are some ways to get “The Last Superhero” by Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz: