a review by Nalini Haynes
Chevron (Chevie) Savano is an American Indian teenager living in London in 2018 after screwing up an undercover assignment for the FBI in Los Angeles. Her current assignment is to lay low and help Agent Orange supervise an electronic pod in the basement of their house. Riley, a fourteen year old boy living in Victorian England in 1898, is the Reluctant Assassin whose Fagan-esque master forces him to murder a man. W.A.R.P. is a top-secret witness protection project that uses time travel to stash important at-risk witnesses in the past. Time travel hi-jinks ensue with Albert Garrick, the Fagan-esque master, accidentally acquiring superpowers to augment his already impressive array of talents dedicated to evil.
Aimed at 9 to 12 year olds, the Reluctant Assassin hits the mark well. For this age-group, this novel is a longer read at 321 pages, but the plot, humour and just the right amount of gore will entice readers onwards.
The more mature reader may notice some small criticisms: Riley sometimes talks like Oliver Twist and at others like Teyla from Stargate Atlantis. I’m not sure but there might be a few small internal inconsistencies and I’m not 100% sure of the factual correctness of the historical dating of some things like cars being on the streets of London. I wasn’t offended or jolted out of the story by any of this and I could well be wrong. If I had the time I’d reread the book and do research to prove or disprove my thoughts, but this is a comedic action adventure for boys in upper primary and middle school. I’m just not fussed. I enjoyed the ride.
I deeply appreciated Chevie, one of the two protagonists, who is a very capable and slightly older girl with aspirational and admirable abilities. Both protagonists work well together with plenty of scope for humour and conflict as they are three years apart in age but 120 years apart in era as well as having very different strengths and weaknesses. I see a healthy relationship developing between the two with huge scope for future novels. These kinds of novels can help shape the next generation of young men into exemplary examples of the species who relate comfortably to capable women.
Comparing the Reluctant Assassin to Artemis Fowl is not entirely straightforward. I think the Reluctant Assassin is darker than the early Artemis Fowl books, but it’s been a while since I read early Artemis Fowl novels. The Reluctant Assassin is no darker than the later Artemis Fowl books. I think the violence in the Reluctant Assassin is fine for the age group; much as I lean towards being protective of the young, I wouldn’t have a problem giving this book to a child of 9 or even younger if it would encourage him or her to read.
More science fiction than fairy-based fantasy, the Reluctant Assassin will still appeal to fans of Artemis Fowl but it will also appeal to the next generation of gadget-focused cartoon-obsessed kids who need encouragement to read. Highly recommended.