The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. 1)

by Eoin Colfer
ages: 12+
First sentence: “There were two smudges in the shadows between the grandfather clock and the velvet drapes.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher through the bookstore.

Chevron Savano is a 17-year-old FBI junior agent, stuck in London as a reassignment after an undercover debacle in Los Angeles. She’s basically babysitting this weird pod with an agent who calls himself Agent Orange. It’s all very odd and extremely boring. That is, until one day the pod shakes and shivers and a boy from the past comes through. It turns out that the pod is actually a time machine with a link to Victorian London (as part of an experimental FBI witness relocation program) and the scientist who invented it was just murdered.

Riley is the assistant to former magician and current assassin for hire Albert Garrick. He’s not a willing assistant: he owes Garrick his life, but is becoming increasingly disillusioned about Garrick and his, well, we’ll call them sensibilities. Riley lives his live in constant terror: Garrick is evil at his core and he has a sense of ownership for Riley that is positively creepy. And so, when Riley activates the wormhole (with the death of the scientist) and slides through., Garrick does the only thing possible: kills the FBI cleanup team, and heads through the wormhole. With one addition: his consciousness merges with that of Agent Orange, effectively making Garrick a supervillian. Riley and Chevron are both on the run from Garrick and determined to stop him from completely destroying the fabric of time.

On the one hand, Colfer –whose work has been hit-and-miss for me over the years — really knows how to pile on the action. It’s non-stop! It’s one thing after another, but I never felt it was too over the top. It all made sense to me. Also: I thoroughly enjoyed both Chevie and Riley as characters. They complimented each other — which could have been a tricky thing considering they are from two different centuries — and Colfer played each to his or her strength. Additionally, Garrick is a great villain: creepy and evil to the core.

In fact, my only real complaint is the same as Ms. Yingling: for a book the publishers are marketing for 10+, there is an awfully high body count. Garrick has absolutely no qualms about murdering anyone and everyone, which means that there is someone being offed (and sometimes more than one) quite often. I know there are other dark middle grade books out there (the Harry Potter series and Graveyard Book are two that come to mind), but there is a casualness about the killing in this one that is a little, well, creepy.

Aside from that, however, it’s a gripping read. Oh, and Eoin Colfer’s going to be at Watermark on Wednesday! If you’re in town, stop by. It should be fun!

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