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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1) by Eoin Colfer

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.

Released: April 11th 2013           Pages: 341
Publisher: Disney Hyperion        Source: Library

First Look: ***** I wanted this book because it said Eoin Colfer on the cover. That's basically it. I've loved everything I've read of his in the past. I don't have my Goodreads pre-review anymore, but I'm pretty sure it included the phrase "come to me, my precious".

This cover so perfectly captures the essence of these characters.  Garrick is the looming-over-everyone creepy guy, Chevie is all let's-take-these-bad-guys-down, and Riley is a little clueless and "Can we go get a drink?  What, I'm under the drinking age in this time period?"

 Setting: *****  I don't know why so many authors choose to set their time-travel books in late-1800s England, but I'm okay with it.  I liked the juxtaposition of Chevie and her modern ways, and the agency's tools, onto the historical setting.

And that's pretty much all I have for this category.

 Characters: ***** I liked the friendship between Chevie and Riley.  It's starting to become a big sister/little brother relationship, and sibling relationships are an underutilized source of strong bonds in YA fiction.  Individually, though, neither of the characters gave me a solid sense of their personality.  I got the idea that Chevie was outwardly tough and sure of herself, but what was underneath that exterior?  More depth would've helped me like her more. 

We got a little more depth with Riley.  We got to see some of the effects of his parents' death, and a lifetime of Garrick's lies to him.  Of the two, he was my favorite.  (I seem to be fond of spunky younger-teen boys in books.  For some reason, they give so much opportunity for a character that's just plain fun, maybe even more so than any other age group.  *coughJaroncough*  I talked a little more about this concept in this review.  And now I feel like I need a qualifier stating that no, you shouldn't take this in a creepy way.)

 Plot: ***** I like time travel books.  They tend to have fun, exciting plots, and this was no exception.  It took a little while for me to really get into it, but after I did, I enjoyed it. 

My only problem was that, at times, it went too fast.  This was also partly a writing problem.  Still, the pacing seemed off, and if the action had been slowed down, there would have been more opportunity for so much depth, rather than just a surface-level time travel thriller.

 Uniqueness: *****  
It uses common concepts like time travel and secret agencies, but combines them in a fun, new way.  The high-tech rapid-fire action will be familiar to Eoin Colfer fans.

Writing: ***** 
The narration disoriented me on a fairly regular basis.  There weren't really any set point of view sections, where it was clearly defined who was narrating.  Instead, the narration would hop around in various people's heads.  This can work, sometimes, but in this book it confused me.  The transitions between whose thoughts we were hearing were either rough or nonexistent. 

The acronym W.A.R.P. makes me think of this scene, from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. promo:
Interviewer: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Agent Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Interviewer: And what does that mean to you?
Agent Ward: It means somebody really wanted our initials to spell "shield".

 Not-so-great: Did...did Eoin Colfer just refer to Gimli as a Hobbit?

Overall: I enjoyed this, for the most part.  It had a cool concept, an action-packed plot, and characters that were decently likable.  I don't think it was quite up to par with other Eoin Colfer books I've read, however.  I wish it would've had more depth.  The narration was disorienting and at times even confusing.  Still, I'll be reading the second book.  My rating is more in the 3.5 range, but I round up.

Similar Books: It features modern teens traveling through time like TimeRiders  The Missing series, or The Doomsday BoxIt will also appeal to fans of Artemis Fowl because, well, Eoin Colfer.  

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