by Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Thriller / Romance
Length: 521 Pages
Release date: November 8, 2016
Blurb via GoodReads:
She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.
Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.
When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.
Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.
Unlike most of my reviews, this is *not* spoiler-free.
Okay, I enjoy making fun of Twilight as much as the next person, but let me say this: I truly went into this book with an open mind and it was Not Good. Stephenie Meyer’s two most recent books have the same basic issue. Meyer places a woman into an interesting situation and then says, “You know what this story needs now? A thinly developed, forced romance!” I’m not opposed to romance subplots on principle, but do you know what story probably doesn’t need one of those? One about a former government agent and torture specialist mistakenly kidnapping an innocent civilian.
The frustrating thing about this book is that the premise could have gone in so many interesting directions, none of which Meyer explored. Our protagonist, a woman of many names who we’ll call Alex for simplicity, is a former torture agent for the US government. She believed at the time everything she did was for the good of public safety. Now, having been intentionally steered towards an innocent civilian as part of their plot to try to get rid of her, she knows just how dishonest and shady her former employers were. This should trigger a crisis of conscience and a dramatic rethinking about her former life… an all-out existential crisis. Does Meyer explore this? Eh… not really. Not as more than a passing thought, quickly taking a back seat to, you guessed it, the romance.
And the object of her romance? The innocent civilian she tortured, Daniel. Don’t worry, though, he totally doesn’t hold it against her. Not even for a minute. He’s basically a golden retriever in human form, and Alex is Master. Daniel first encounters Alex on a train, when she promptly kidnaps him, and he wakes up naked and strapped to a table surrounded by torture implements. Does he have any kind of a normal, human reaction to this scenario?
“Um, is this some kind of fetish fantasy thing? …I don’t really know the rules for that stuff…”
Oh… okay, Daniel.
I’m not exaggerating when I saw that there was something clearly chemically wrong with Daniel. He imprints onto Alex like a little baby duck and does not let go. The only rational explanation is that Alex injected him with something that permanently damaged his brain, but even that wouldn’t be a satisfying conclusion, since it would give their whole “love at first sight” relationship even more of an “ick” factor than it already has. Daniel blames Alex for nothing. Sure, she tortured him, but she had bad info. It could happen to anyone, really. Plus, she’s super enticing and wonderful in ways that are clear to the male love interest but absolutely never apparent to the reader, à la Bella Swan. (Now might be a good time to mention that I went into this book mainly with the intention of discovering if Meyer had learned anything since Twilight. The answer seems to be no.)
Grossness of the romance aside, this is a thriller that commits the unforgivable sin of being… boring. Alex and Daniel are on the run from a rogue government organization with seemingly endless power. Alex is on a mission to uncover what information has caused them to turn on her, in the hopes that she can take out the person who would be damaged by that information, thus eliminating anyone with motive to kill her. The problem is that by the time the mystery is solved and the action goes into full swing, Alex and Daniel have spent so many pages mooning over one another that the reader simply doesn’t care anymore.
I tried to like this book, Stephenie Meyer. I really did.