Book Review: Reluctant Praise for “Reluctant Assassin”
Call me crazy, but I read everything. I love to read, and read as much intermediate and junior fiction as adult fiction, though I'm in my forties. I have read, for example, all of the Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer, as well as his Supernaturalist book, and have been a great fan of the prolific author. He combines his gifts of imagination and wit cleverly in many of his books. But his latest book, WARP: The Reluctant Assassin, is not like those other books, and parents eager to provide good reading material for their middle-grade readers might want to think twice before putting this on their shelves. On the other hand, if you, as an adult reader, like grim premises, blood and gore, bone-chilling villains, and the idea that teenagers always end up saving the world, then this book is for you.
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books are about the conflict between a modern group of high-tech, CIA-type fairies living in the United Kingdom and a young, brilliant rich kid bent on unraveling their mysteries and looting their gold. They are full of witty banter, imaginative devices and settings, inventive plotting, and a main character who evolves slowly and believably from a stereotypically spoiled boy to a sensitive, complicated, kinder young man. The Reluctant Assassin, on the other hand, begins in 19th century England, with a young orphan boy apprenticed to a killer, then flips to modern-day London and then back and forth again. The killer is a ruthless man named Garrick, and as the story progresses he subsumes other people's knowledge as he kills them and chases Riley and a very young FBI operative back and forth through time.
While the use of time travel makes for an interesting plot device, speeding it along, it doesn't necessarily make a structured plot. Readers may feel a little jostled about by the time they've finished the book. The premise is that the CIA has a highly secret Witness Anonymous Relocation Program that hides important witnesses not in secret locations but in secret time periods, and that a 16-year-old girl, spurned of more important assignments, is the FBI operative set to guarding one of the portals. She unwittingly becomes a guide for Riley when he comes through the portal, and a fellow escapee from Garrick when he comes through. The odds are stacked so far against them that things seem almost laughable from the beginning. And they only become more so as descriptions of Garrick's killings—torso-splittings and bullet-spittings—become more plentiful.
Ultimately, Eoin Colfer, with The Reluctant Assassin, seems to have missed the high mark he has set up with his other books. This book suffers from a little bit of multiple-personality disorder because it possesses the simpleness of an intermediate or young adult book, with its young main characters and fast-paced action, but has the soul of an adult novel, if a premise is a book's soul. Yet I feel it doesn't have the depth of characterization, structure and complexity of plot, or sophistication of style to fall squarely in that genre.
All that being said, I still admire Eoin Colfer's writing prowess overall, and look forward to his future books in other series.
What Eoin Colfer books have you read? What did you think of them?
Disclaimer: Disney Publishing provided me with a free review copy of the book. All opinions stated herein are my own.A frequent contributor to Mom It Forward, Jamie Moesser holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public administration. Before becoming a full-time mom she spent 10 years writing grants and fundraising for non-profit organizations. She now enjoys volunteering at her sons’ school, reading, writing, and scrapbooking. And as if that wasn’t enough, her other hobbies include waterskiing, r/c car racing, and dirt biking.