With the latest draft of my master’s thesis (finally!) in my adviser’s and reader’s “to read” piles, I finally got to read for fun! First on the list was The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer, the first book in his new series W.A.R.P. I got my copy several months ago from my favorite bookstore ever (thank you Danes for getting it for me!) but only recently had the time to read it.
The synopsis from the book jacket:
Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, a former illusionist turned murderer, who now uses his conjuring skills to gain access to his victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant assistant along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to complete the grisly act when the intended prey turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern-day London-with Garrick close on his heels.
In modern London, Riley is aided by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent. Together, Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally changed by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possess all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track down Riley and use the Timekey in Chevie’s possession to literally change the world.
Note: the synopsis is slightly misleading as yes, Riley and Garrick do find a scientist from the future but Garrick got his knowledge from a different scientist. Just clearing that up.
The Reluctant Assassin is a great time travel romp, with likeable characters, snappy dialogue, and lots of blood. Oh yes, there’s a lot more blood in this book compared to Colfer’s previous novels.
1. I liked Chevie. She was headstrong without being obnoxious, willing to let Riley take the lead in situations where his experience exceeded hers, and plenty smart. She’s obviously not happy with how she ended up in London in the first place but she tried to make the best of it.
2. I liked Riley too. He’s a genuinely good kid who just got caught up in circumstances. He gets fleshed out later on in the book, when we find out about his past and how he got involved with Garrick.
3. Garrick is one heck of a creepy villain. Kudos to Colfer for creating a great boogeyman.
4. The plot twists were nicely done. They were surprising, sure, but they didn’t come out of nowhere.
5. Excellent handling of time travel! The time travel framework for The Reluctant Assassin is similar to Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, which is a good thing because none of the side details are lost and everything makes sense. It was an integral part of the story and not a deus ex machina
1. While I love Chevie to bits, her attitude can be grating at times.
2. Garrick is built up to be so scary, it’s bordering on ridiculous. He was already unconscionably evil before the start of the book and then the wormhole shit happens and he becomes even smarter and meaner. Garrick is still an excellent villain but there are some times when his over-the-top antics actually make him less scary.
The part that made me fume in anger:
THE COVER. Oh my god, the cover for the US release! Chevron Savano is a seventeen-year-old badass FBI agent, not some model wannabe. Why in the ever-loving hell was she subjected to the infamous spine-twisting ass shot? WHYYYYY??? This sends a bad message all around, especially since this book is marketed towards teenagers. Before you say that I’m overreacting, let me introduce you to the The Hawkeye Initiative. Here’s Hawkeye doing the exact pose that Chevie is in:
Enough said. Compare this to the UK cover (see the first cover I posted) which has no asses whatsoever. Whoever designed the US book cover, you have a lot to answer for. Please get it right in the second book.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars when I ignore the cover, 2.5 stars if the cover is considered.