Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Reluctant Assassin (#1 in W.A.R.P series)

Author: Eoin Colfer
Type: e-book Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)
Genre: Young Adult/Supernatural
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
First Line: "There were two smudges in the shadows between the grandfather clock and the velvet drapes."

Note: My sincere thanks to Disney Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher's Description: Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim 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, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

My Thoughts:  I have to admit that I requested this book from NetGalley based on only two things.  First, the book was from the highly successful Eoin Colfer - author of the extremely popular Artemis Fowl series.  And even though I had never read any of his books {yet} I was quite excited to give this new series a try since my oldest son was so hooked on the Artemis series.  Secondly, the premise was really, really cool.  A witness protection programme that uses a time travel worm hole to hide its witnesses?  Oh yes, sign me up, please!

I'm happy to report that Colfer has created a book that is strong start to his new series.  It's full of time travel, lots of action and interesting characters.  One of my favourite characters has got to be the evil, creepy and deliciously sinister Garrick.  He's an illusionist who isn't satisfied with his lot in life and has higher goals of domination which makes for a great 'bad guy'.  While he does have a slightly clich├ęd feel (he gives off a little of the 'moustache twisting, bwah-ha-ha' kind of creepiness) he still has enough realism to create a nice amount of suspense and a real threat to Riley and Chevie.  You never knew when he'd catch up to Riley and Chevie and I loved that. 

Another thing that made Garrick stand out for me is the fact that when he travelled through the wormhole he was altered and was able to gain not only special abilities but the knowledge of one of the Special Agents of W.A.R.P.  He's now a sinister, evil, morphing genius who can function in both time periods.  The story possibilities are endless!

The other two main characters are just as well-rounded and interesting.  Chevron (aka Chevie) is a strong, funny, realistically flawed and sarcastic main character.  Was she portrayed as more mature than I was expecting for a 17 year old?  A bit but she also has a job and responsibilities that not many 17 years olds can boast of having.  Something else that made her stand out was the fact that she has Native American heritage.   I felt that it made her breath of fresh air and while we're introduced to her heritage, it didn't take over the storyline but merely added to her depth of character.

Young Riley, the reluctant assassin himself, is a street urchin with a heart. While Riley is a good main character and interacts well with Chevie and Garrick I will admit that he seems a lot younger and more immature than the 14 year old he's supposed to be. His reactions and overall demeanor seem to be more of a 9 year old's. Perhaps that's the differences in the period he lived in? Overall, he's an interesting character and I like how he engages with Chevie.

I only have a couple criticisms -- and honestly I can't really even call them criticisms.  First, I have to warn that this book was much gorier and bloody than I was expecting from a YA read that, I assume, is aimed at fans of his Artemis Fowl series (Boy 1 read the series when he was about 10 or 11 years old).  The evil acts start right away with young Riley being taught the correct way to kill someone with a knife and go on from there.  It's the fact that it's a young boy being taught, not some random zombie or other imaginary supernatural creature, that gave me some pause.  That said, the book does have the word "assassin" in its title so I suppose I was fairly warned. 

Also, due to the fact that the author had to set up characters, storylines etc for this new series I felt that, at one point, the pace suffered a bit for it.  Definitely not enough for me to lose interest but the book starts out so strong that when the pace dips a little you notice it.

All in all, this is a strong start to a very promising new series.  I look forward to seeing where Colfer will take this series.  

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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