Saturday, June 7, 2014

W.A.R.P. Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin (audio book) by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Maxwell Caulfield

The Reluctant Assassin is a YA time travel book.

No read-alikes or watch-alikes for this one, because I am woefully behind on my review posts.


I got this audio book for free via SYNC. I had no clue what it was about, but because I had enjoyed several of Eoin Colfer's books in the past, I figured “why not?”

The two main characters are 17-year-old Chevron (Chevie) Savano and 14-year-old Riley. Chevie was originally part of an FBI program to investigate possible terrorists in schools by recruiting orphans as junior FBI agents. Chevie was one of those orphans and the reason why the program was scrapped – she defended her target from an attacker, and her behavior, although technically heroic, was caught on camera and brought the FBI under embarrassing scrutiny. Riley, also an orphan, is an assassin's apprentice in Victorian England.

Chevie and Riley are brought together by a time machine, part of the FBI's secret Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (W.A.R.P.). WARP involves hiding important witnesses in the past. Unfortunately, Riley accidentally ends up transported to the present, and his master, Garrick, follows him and gains deadly powers.

I'll just say right up front that there were so many things wrong with the premise, and I was never quite able to get past that. Eoin Colfer's FBI has lots of stupid ideas. Yes, let's recruit minors for possibly dangerous jobs and train them as though they were adult agents. Let's use expensive technology to send, at most, a handful of witnesses back in time. Never mind that that technology has a chance of mutating them and giving them gorilla arms or dinosaur heads. They're safe from the criminals that might want to kill them and that's all that matters.

I don't know that I'd have made it through this book if I'd been reading it, rather than listening to it. It was kind of boring, for one thing. Garrick was ridiculously super-powered, with just enough convenient weaknesses not to be completely unbeatable. And Chevie kind of annoyed me, especially in the beginning. She was convinced that she was better than all adult FBI agents, and waiting until she could become an official, real FBI agent would mean wasting the prime years of her life. She reminded me of Holly Short, from Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, but Holly had more real-world experience. It was a relief when Garrick and the time travel stuff took Chevie down a few notches.

The time travel aspect had lots of holes. Garrick was the only character in the entire book who was ever affected by time travel in a useful way – anyone else who had the time machine go wrong on them ended up hideously mutated. Another issue: later in the book, it was revealed that one particular character had been profiting off his modern-day knowledge for years in Victorian England, with no apparent lasting effect on the timeline. That made me wonder if the “time machine” was actually transporting people to an alternate Victorian England. That would have made more sense than the actual explanation, which assumed that hugely popular songs, works of literature, and more could be completely wiped from history simply by someone ordering it so.

All in all, this was not as good as I had hoped it would be, and I have no plans to continue with the series. However, the humor was okay (popular song in Victorian England: "Another Brick in Yonder Wall"), and I did at least like the narrator well enough, although it was hard to remember that Chevie was supposed to be a 17-year-old girl and not a hard-boiled agent in her thirties. Riley also came across as older than he was, so it may have been the writing as much as the narration.

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