I must preface this review by telling you that I had only one reason for requesting this book from NetGalley: I recently finished the third draft of a novel about a 16-year-old girl raised since childhood to be an assassin, and I thought I should suss out the competition. Not least because if this proved to be too similar, or significantly better, I might have needed to rethink my querying plans.
Well, good news: beyond their protagonists, my book and this one have very little in common either in style, setting, or content. Just two totally different books about teenage assassins. We’re safe. And now, onto the review, which is a slightly expanded version of my Goodreads review.
This is a fast paced and exciting novel that’s full of action. Set in the modern world, it’s more Bourne than Assassin’s Creed, which is like my own novel, but it makes a lot more use of technology. The characters work in teams, and we get to see how they make use of earpieces and so on to coordinate. A lot of the murder is political, and we can see the different approaches various killers take to the jobs, too, which makes for an interesting examination of ethics and morality with regard to contract killing.
It’s got a diverse cast of characters, both in the sense that they’re distinct and have their own personalities, and in the sense of representation. The book features a f/f relationship, although it’s not what you’d call a romance book — there’s a lot of other plot happening, like murder and stuff. There are bi characters and gay characters and ace characters and even an intersex character, all mentioned by name rather than just implied. So that was very cool.
It’s obviously a heavily researched book, which I guess is good if you’re into details but I know so little about guns that some of that stuff was lost on me. For American readers, and others familiar with guns, I guess giving the name of the gun is enough to bring to mind a visual image. For me, as someone who has never seen a real gun up close, I’d be better off knowing it’s “small and black” or “large and complicated” because I have no clue what they’re talking about half the time.
As for plot, there are some emotional moments and a few plot twists that keep the reader guessing.
THE LESS GOOD:
This book would probably make a great action movie. On the page, though, so much was happening that I found it a bit hard to follow. Car chases are much harder to visualise than you might think. I don’t have a visual imagination (it’s complicated — ask me to try and explain how I picture things some time, we’ll be there all night) and so I struggled to get to grips with exactly what was happening in these action-heavy scenes.
I was also totally thrown off by Kindra swearing by and referencing the Greek Fates and so on, and there were several moments where I couldn’t tell if it was literal or metaphorical. For example (ARC, so quotes aren’t final, etc etc):
She’d had lengthy, philosophical conversations with Charon on two occasions, and had long ago grown accustomed to death.
I’m sitting there thinking, “Has she literally sat down and discussed things with a mythological figure? Or is she trying to say she’s had near-death experiences? Is this a figure of speech, or are these Greek figures actually wandering around?” (For the record: I eventually figured out it was a metaphor. I think. But hey, I might be wrong, I never fully understood that.)
These things are explained in the end, but somewhat vaguely, and it’s a long way through the book, which means I spent most of it thoroughly confused. At the beginning, I was trying to adjust to the setting, which I’d thought was modern until those references, and then I kept readjusting, throwing me out of the story. Dru’s family’s vintage pop culture references were similarly off-putting because I didn’t understand a lot of them, but as they came into the story a lot later it was less of a problem.
Although this is an engaging story, I found it a bit dense and hard to read. There’s just so much action, and I didn’t get to know the characters until a long way into the book. Yet for a book that seemed so plot-based, I guessed a number of the twists while remaining thoroughly confused as to what was actually happening at other points.
This might be just me and the way my imagination works — some people love action, whereas I’m all about character development. (And don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of that in this book, it’s just harder to see.) I find fight scenes and chases very hard to follow in books, though on screen they’re fine. This book read like something that needed to be a film to be fully appreciated, and honestly I think it would work better in that medium than on the page.
So, some good stuff but this didn’t quite do it for me. And I think I’ll stick to using Buffy as my main comp title — it’s probably a more accurate comparison to make. (Though all assassin-related book recommendations are welcome, as ever.) 🙂
Fun fact: it has reached the point where I’m no longer at all sure if I’m spelling “assassins” correctly, or even if it’s a word. assassasssassssssinsssssss
Fun fact #2: I’m currently in Ireland, so if you comment on this review and I don’t reply, I’m probably out walking in the middle of nowhere. I’ll be back soon.