When I told my nine year old that I would be getting the new Eoin Colfer book to review, he had no idea what I was talking about. When I said “a new book by the guy who wrote the Artemis Fowl series,” my son pestered me every day about whether the book had arrived.
And when WARP: The Reluctant Assassin finally did arrive, Caleb grabbed it out of my hands and didn’t put it down. Literally: we had to pry the book out of his hands at meal-times and bed-time; he turned down computer time and beach time “because I’m reading!”
Artemis Fowl, for those of you not familiar with the series, was first published in 2001 and functioned as a kind of anti-Harry Potter: Artemis was a criminal genius, motivated—at least in the first book—purely by selfish motives. By the final volume, however, published in 2012, Artemis has developed more of a moral code, even to the extent that he is willing to sacrifice himself to save others. Artemis’s world, like Harry Potter’s, combines the real and the magical, which WARP does not do, unless you count time travel as magic. Caleb insists that “WARP doesn’t have any magic . Time travel isn’t magic, it’s science.”
WARP does indeed have science, and time-travel, which younger readers will take at face value; older readers (or grown-ups) will enjoy the references to the various novels of HG Wells, including The Time Machine, as well as the novel’s “steampunk” sensibility.
The novel begins in Victorian England, with a chilling scene in which an innocent old man is murdered. The would-be assassin, Riley, is a boy of about fourteen who is the apprentice to Albert Garrick, an evil genius who says he is keeping Riley safe, but in fact may be keeping Riley prisoner. I thought this opening scene was almost too much for young readers, but Caleb assured me that Riley doesn’t want to commit murder—and in fact it’s Garrick who plunges a knife into the old man’s body.
This murder, however, sets in motion a series of unexpected consequences, not the least of which is that Riley gets catapulted into the twenty-first century, where he meets Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent who is in London on “re-assignment” after a mission in the United States goes disastrously wrong. Chevie and Riley, despite their differences, must learn to depend on each other as each of their discoveries leads to yet another fantastic secret—and increasing danger.
Riley and Chevie learn that the innocent old man whom Garrick murdered had secrets of his own: he was a high profile scientist who had discovered how to make time travel feasible and he had links to the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). What Riley and Chevie don’t know, however, is that Garrick also made it through the wormhole into the future, absorbing the dying scientist’s knowledge as he went. Now armed with nineteenth-century cunning and twenty-first century knowledge, Garrick is on the hunt for Riley—and will stop at nothing to find him.
As Garrick chases Riley—and Chevie—across the centuries, we are swept up in an exciting story of intrigue and adventure, which I read with as much enjoyment as my nine-year old, who said “this is a great book—even better than Artemis Fowl, because the bad guy is really BAD, and there is a twist at the end that keeps you guessing. When is the sequel coming out?” I don’t know when the sequel to The Reluctant Assassin is coming out, but Caleb may have to wait for me to read it first—that’s how good the first book is.
**full disclosure: I was sent a copy of Colfer's book to review. The opinions expressed in this review, however, belong solely to me (and to Caleb).
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