Book review: “The Hangman’s Revolution” by Eoin Colfer

hangman's revolution coverI’ll say this right now: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer, the second book in the WARP series, is the most enjoyable book I’ve read so far this 2014. (Whether that holds after The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan comes out tomorrow is another matter entirely. But I digress.)

Colfer hits another winner as The Hangman’s Revolution is even better than last year’s The Reluctant Assassin. It’s more fun, more action-packed, and an even better and tighter story overall.

The synopsis from the book jacket:

“Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent not known for obeying the rules, has arrived home after a time-trip to Victorian London, where she helped an orphan boy named Riley escape his murderous master. Present-day London is very different from the one she left. England is being run by followers of a Colonel Box, who control the territory through intimidation and terror. Chevie is absorbed by this timeline and cannot remember fully the history she once belonged to. Though a part of her senses that something is wrong, she moves on with her life as a junior cadet in the Boxite police.

The day Chevie is ordered to confront Professor Charles Smart, the inventor of the time machine, she finds herself thrust into the past. There, with the help of Riley and a few unlikely allies, she must venture into London’s catacombs and derail the plans of the charismatic leader who is intent on using his knowledge of the future to seize power.”

[I have no problems with this synopsis because it’s accurate and gives a great overview of the overall story arc.]

Reasons why I’m so happy with this book:
1. Chevie is still awesome. Riley is still awesome. I love them both. Riley’s still haunted by his memories of Garrick but he doesn’t let that stop him from training to become the best magician he can be. He’s now the proud owner and headliner of The Orient and is determined to make a name for himself. In the meantime, Chevie’s not right in the head (having two sets of conflicting personalities and memories will do that to a person) but she still manages to literally kick some Thundercat ass.

2. Dumping FBI Chevie into Cadet Chevie’s body and having both personalities and memories duke it out for supremacy was a great plot point. I haven’t seen this consequence of time travel in recent books and movies, as they all just have the original personality take over the current body (e.g. Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past as he wakes up in the new present where everyone is not dead). Seeing this tackled in The Hangman’s Revolution was a nice surprise. The plot point was also handled and written very well. You can feel Cadet Chevie’s confusion and desperation to silence Traitor (FBI) Chevie and FBI Chevie struggling to overcome Cadet Chevie’s ingrained fear of Colonel Box.

3. Colonel Clayton Box is a worthy successor to Albert Garrick’s villain mantle. A sociopath with an analytical mind, Colonel Box is willing to do whatever it takes to shape the world in his own image. If that includes genocide with some coup d’etat on then so be it.

4. The new characters of Thundercats Clover Vallicose and Lunka Witmeyer are pretty darned interesting. Colfer skirts that delicate edge between amusing caricature and annoying caricature with great success.

5. Chevie’s determination at the end of the book was especially poignant. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but is taking things one disaster at a time.

The (few) slightly negative things that I spotted:
1. The Hangman’s Revolution has minimal “this is what happened in the previous book” exposition. Now, whether this is actually a good thing or a bad thing is entirely depended on whether you read The Reluctant Assassin or not. Truth be told, I’d forgotten some of the details from Assassin so I had to Google and remind myself of some of the previous story points that Riley or Chevie mentioned. Bottom line: The Reluctant Assassin is required reading if you want to understand The Hangman’s Revolution.

2. The plot “twist” as to who Box’s inside man was was just okay. Colfer tried to play it off as a big surprise but I didn’t care that much about it.

3. While the Sisters were somewhere between amusing and annoying, Otto Malarkey steps over the edge and into annoying territory. While it wasn’t enough to stop me from reading the book, he does become grating at times, especially when he becomes especially grandiose. I’m not sure if Colfer meant for him to be annoying or annoying-endearing. He does have his redeeming scenes – like when he distracts the Boxites so Riley can get away – but he’s still annoying.

Overall rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. Yes, my dislike of Otto Malarkey merits 0.25 stars. But otherwise, the book is excellent and worthy of every bit of time spent reading it 😀

WARP #2: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer is available from The Book Depository.

Book review: The Reluctant Assassin (WARP Book #1) by Eoin Colfer

WARP 1 cover britishWith the latest draft of my master’s thesis (finally!) in my adviser’s and reader’s “to read” piles, I finally got to read for fun! First on the list was The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer, the first book in his new series W.A.R.P. I got my copy several months ago from my favorite bookstore ever (thank you Danes for getting it for me!) but only recently had the time to read it.

The synopsis from the book jacket:
Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, a former illusionist turned murderer, who now uses his conjuring skills to gain access to his victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant assistant along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to complete the grisly act when the intended prey 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-with Garrick close on his heels.

In modern London, Riley is aided by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent. Together, Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally changed by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possess all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track down Riley and use the Timekey in Chevie’s possession to literally change the world.

Note: the synopsis is slightly misleading as yes, Riley and Garrick do find a scientist from the future but Garrick got his knowledge from a different scientist. Just clearing that up.

The Reluctant Assassin is a great time travel romp, with likeable characters, snappy dialogue, and lots of blood. Oh yes, there’s a lot more blood in this book compared to Colfer’s previous novels.

The good:
1. I liked Chevie. She was headstrong without being obnoxious, willing to let Riley take the lead in situations where his experience exceeded hers, and plenty smart. She’s obviously not happy with how she ended up in London in the first place but she tried to make the best of it.

2. I liked Riley too. He’s a genuinely good kid who just got caught up in circumstances. He gets fleshed out later on in the book, when we find out about his past and how he got involved with Garrick.

3. Garrick is one heck of a creepy villain. Kudos to Colfer for creating a great boogeyman.

4. The plot twists were nicely done. They were surprising, sure, but they didn’t come out of nowhere.

5. Excellent handling of time travel! The time travel framework for The Reluctant Assassin is similar to Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, which is a good thing because none of the side details are lost and everything makes sense. It was an integral part of the story and not a deus ex machina

The not-so-good:
1. While I love Chevie to bits, her attitude can be grating at times.

2. Garrick is built up to be so scary, it’s bordering on ridiculous. He was already unconscionably evil before the start of the book and then the wormhole shit happens and he becomes even smarter and meaner. Garrick is still an excellent villain but there are some times when his over-the-top antics actually make him less scary.

The part that made me fume in anger:
THE COVER. Oh my god, the cover for the US release! Chevron Savano is a seventeen-year-old badass FBI agent, not some model wannabe. Why in the ever-loving hell was she subjected to the infamous spine-twisting ass shot? WHYYYYY??? This sends a bad message all around, especially since this book is marketed towards teenagers. Before you say that I’m overreacting, let me introduce you to the The Hawkeye Initiative. Here’s Hawkeye doing the exact pose that Chevie is in:

WARP1 US cover Hawkeye

Enough said. Compare this to the UK cover (see the first cover I posted) which has no asses whatsoever. Whoever designed the US book cover, you have a lot to answer for. Please get it right in the second book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars when I ignore the cover, 2.5 stars if the cover is considered.

Book review: “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian” by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl’s magical journey that spans eight novels and one short story collection comes to an end with Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian. The official description:

Artemis Fowl’s archenemy Opal Koboi has masterminded a way to simultaneously secure her release from prison and bring the human and fairy worlds to their knees. And, unless Artemis can stop her, the evil pixie’s next move will destroy all human life on Earth.

Ground zero is the Fowl Estate, where Opal has reanimated fairy warriors who were buried there thousands of years ago. Their spirits have possessed any vessels they can find – corpses, Artemis’ little brothers, assorted wildlife – and they are bound to obey Opal’s every command. Defeating the motley troops and their diabolical leader will require all of Artemis’ cleverness, as well as Butler’s bravery, Holly’s skill, and Foaly’s gadgetry. But if their best efforts aren’t enough, Armageddon will surely follow.

I’ll admit it: I teared up as I started to read The Last Guardian. Imagine: Artemis Fowl came out in 2001 and here we are, 11 years later, with Artemis, Holly, and Butler’s last adventure. They’ve battled each other, the Russian mafia, a genius-insane pixie and her LEP stooge, a pansy tech genius, a genius-insane pixie (again), a demon, Artemis’ younger self and the genius-insane pixie (again), and a nasty elf. Reformation notwithstanding, Artemis has become my favorite anti-hero.

So. How’s the book?

I’m parts satisfied, saddened and “That’s it? There’s no epilogue?!”. I’m satisfied because it was a good end to Artemis’ brilliant run. He is at his most selfless, something that would have been unthinkable in the first book. I was so happy to see Artemis and Holly as BFFs again. Butler is the same steadfast presence. Juliet trying to wrangle Myles and Beckett Fowl was adorable. We see Foaly’s more sensitive side and (finally!) his kick-ass wife.

I’m probably in the minority of AF fans when I say that Opal Koboi is not my favorite villain. I was satisfied with how The Opal Deception ended and thought that her inclusion in The Time Paradox was unnecessary, so you can imagine my worry when I found out that Opal was returning yet again. From a certain point of view, Opal is the perfect foil for Artemis because she is so much like what Artemis was before: intelligent to the point of megalomania and uncaring. It’s always nice to see Artemis stumped. But after several appearances, Opal seems to have become an exaggeration of her former self (though that could also be due to her growing insanity with each book). Luckily, The Last Guardian is a good exit point for our deranged pixie.

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Book Review: “Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox” by Eoin Colfer

The Harry Potter series was both a boon and a bane to children’s books: a boon because it got children reading again, and a bane because Harry Potter overshadowed everything else that came after it. Unfortunately, one of those casualties was the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. While not as heavy (literally) as the Potter books, Artemis Fowl and his cohorts deserve that shelf space by virtue of being fun, fast-paced, action-packed, intelligent, and yes, magical reads.

The planned cover for Artemis Fowl: The Time P...
Image via Wikipedia

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox is the 6th book of the series. In this one, Artemis has grown up, mellowed out, and is walking the straight and narrow. Everything is fine until his mother acquires Spelltropy, a degenerative fairy disease whose only cure resides in the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the lemur has been extinct for five years because of Artemis himself. To save his mother, Artemis and Holly must travel to the past and save it. In doing so, Artemis faces his deadliest opponent yet: his younger self.

Long story short: I loved this book. It’s typical Artemis Fowl: a crackling adventure with well-crafted characters and unexpected twists that though unexpected, resolve themselves in a logical manner. Artemis has indeed come a long way since his first encounter with the fairies, but his ruthless nature resurfaces in a crucial moment and he must deal with the consequences. What I liked best however, was how deftly Colfer handled time travel. Done sloppily, time travel results in a more convoluted story filled with inconsistencies and more questions than answers (yes Heroes, I’m looking at you). Colfer handled the time paradox brilliantly by choosing one time travel theory (guess which one) and thinking it through. Because of that, he carried to the story to a logical conclusion that ties in with the events in the book.

Each Artemis Fowl novel is designed to stand alone, so new readers can pick up and understand “The Time Paradox” without having read the first five books. Nonetheless, reading Books 1-5 is still highly recommended because Book 6 references previous events and you get to see firsthand Artemis’ transformation from criminal mastermind to the person he is now.