Title: The Reluctant Assassin
Author: Eoin Colfer
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: The first book in the W.A.R.P series
Content appropriate for: Grades 8-12
Format: Digital ARC from Disney Book Group via Netgalley.com
Although I really enjoyed Colfer's famed Artemis Fowl series and his less well-known book The Supernaturalist, I was anxious to start this newest book. I suppose it's because I had recently finished the poorly-titled book, The Accidental Time Traveller, which had virtually no time travel in it. I really enjoy a time travel story - The Time Paradox is one of my favorite Artemis books. Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood to be disappointed by another so-called time travel book. So, now for the good news - there's LOTS of time travel in The Reluctant Assassin. The characters zip back and forth between the present day and 1898 quite frequently. Hooray!
And for a book about an assassin, there's also an awful lot of violence as you would expect. So much gory throat-slitting and knife-sticking that I don't feel comfortable recommending this for children below the age of 13. The three main characters spend the entirety of the book running around trying to kill one another. In the meantime, random FBI agents, vagrants, and thugs also find themselves getting murdered. Did I mention that there's a lot of killing in this book?
As for plot, pacing, and character, I found The Reluctant Assassin to be uneven. All 3 of the primary characters were interesting. They were complex, but with just enough stereotyping that they could almost be caricatures ~ evil villain, snarky FBI agent, wise orphan. The pacing and plot were strong at first. I was immediately hooked by both the plight of young Riley and the strange goings-on of the FBI agents. However, as the story progressed the plot began to disappear. The pace continued in a flurry of killings and near-misses, but without a strong plot, these adventures felt hollow.
This biggest problem facing The Reluctant Assassin is that the central conflict of the novel is too weak. Aside from everyone trying to kill each other, not much happens. There's some vague discussion that people who've been to the future could change the course of history, but this danger feels more like an afterthought than a justification for our characters' murderous deeds.
This book would be a fun read for teens who enjoy action-packed novels, but it's not Colfer's best work.