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The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. 1)

By: Eoin Colfer

Release Date: April 11, 2013

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary: Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim 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, followed closely by Garrick.In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.


Comparisons to Artemis Fowl, I think, are going to be inevitable with W.A.R.P.. It’s probably always that way when a respected children’s author ends one beloved series to start another, and more so especially when the last book in Eoin Colfer’s best known series was released less than a year ago. I know many people are still getting their hands on The Last Guardian, heck I’m still getting comments on my review, so there’s a bit of nostalgia attached to this too and in a way it’s like I’m rooting for Colfer’s new series to succeed. That said though, I do think Colfer has done enough to distinguish The Reluctant Assassin from Artemis Fowl – enough, at least, for a favorable comparison.

There are probably only two things I should note about this series. The first – Artemis Fowl was always a silly series, yes it got sillier and more nonsensical as time went on, but even the first book was plenty silly; W.A.R.P. on the other hand is not. Yes, there are jokes, there are references, there are people with gorilla arms or dinosaur heads and all sorts of weirdness, but unlike his previous series about mud men and fae, Colfer actually plays this one with a straight face. We start out with the aforementioned reluctant assassin, Riley, about to kill an old man in his bed in Victorian England, and it’s violent, there are knives and murder and lives at risk, and it’s all done in a way that’s not Artemis Fowl, where yes there’s murderous trolls and dangerous pixies but besides that one time when Butler’s shot the violence is, well cartoonish, because Artemis is a genius and even in the most dangerous of circumstances surely he’ll come up with some brilliant scheme that lets the gang escape from harm. Well, not here, nothing against Riley or kid FBI agent Chevron Savano, but neither of them is Artemis Fowl, so while they have their own talents, the threat from evil magician slash professional murderer Albert Garrick is much more real.

The second – the premise smacks of a mix of The Time Paradox and The Last Guardian. If you rolled your eyes at the way Opal Koboi became a threat in The Last Guardian, unfortunately Garrick does pretty much the same thing. Sure, I have a problem with it, it’s just a bit too convenient and recycled, but on the other hand in order for the plot to work, in order for a Victorian Age villain to truly pose a threat in the present, you know, to be able to fire that high caliber assault rifle straight from the FBI weapons locker rather than bumble around like the stereotypical wide eyed visitor from the past who takes the TV for a magic box, it had to be done. I don’t like it (or the distracting point of view changes between Riley and Chevie for that matter), but I learned to live with it, because even with the way it was done I like that Colfer still did it with an appreciably serious turn, and I really can’t argue with the results, not with the way The Reluctant Assassin really grew on me over the course of the story.

How? I already mentioned my problems with premise, but once the story moved beyond the setup, there’s a lot to like. Like the scrappiness of the characters – if I had to describe this book in one word, that’d be it, scrappy – there’s no Artemis Fowl the boy genius who can get out of every problem just by thinking or Mulch Diggums with his million useful dwarf abilities or even Foaly and all his gadgets, Riley doesn’t have any of that and how he gets out of his problems is just being scrappy, replacing the quaint if silly absurdity of Artemis Fowl with a fighting spirit that’s enjoyable in its own way. Same thing with Chevie Savano, she’s more like Holly Short, but still, no fairy magic, no fairy technology, it’s just her kickbutt attitude and all the fight in her, punching and kicking her way through their problems. And the other thing, the time travel element isn’t exactly new, but it’s still handled differently than in The Time Paradox, this time the conspiracy is bigger with far more players, setting up sequels in a way that makes me think Colfer really refined his approach to time travel after doing Time Paradox and Last Guardian.

So no, W.A.R.P. doesn’t remind me of Artemis Fowl at all. It’s different, definitely more serious, but I like it

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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