Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Tour Review: Birth of an Assassin by Rik Stone

Title: Birth of an Assassin
Author: Rik Stone
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Silver Publishing

Pages: 430
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I received this book from the author 
in exchange for an honest review. 
Set against the backdrop of Soviet, post-war Russia, Birth of an Assassin follows the transformation of Jez Kornfeld from wide-eyed recruit to avenging outlaw. Amidst a murky underworld of flesh-trafficking, prostitution and institutionalized corruption, the elite Jewish soldier is thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, nobody can be trusted, and everything can be violently torn from him.

Given the order to disperse and arrest a crowd of Jewish demonstrators, Jez breaks up the rally but finds his sisters in their ranks. Rushed for a solution, he sneaks the girls from under the noses of secret police and hides them in downtown Moscow. But he knows they will no longer be safe in Russia and that his own security has been compromised. His plan to cross into the Ukraine to a port on the Black Sea where he can bribe passage from Soviet soil for his sisters seems sound, but he is unaware that his every move is being observed and that he is setting in motion a chain of events that will plunge his life into a headlong battle just to stay alive. 
Birth of an Assassin was a book a little outside of my comfort zone in more than one way: I've never read anything set in Russia and, as a combat vet, I attempt to avoid books about war. But I decided to give this one a try and I was not disappointed.

The main character, Jez, spends half the book on the run from the KGB and I'm sure you can imagine how that goes. Staying one step ahead of the game, Jez manages to stay alive while coping with loss too great to imagine. The character development is good - I sympathized with Jez and Anna... most of the time. There were a few times that Jez made decisions that made me cringe - things that seemed to be unnecessary, in my opinion. But this is war and war is a different place, I suppose. Especially when the rules are bent such as they are in this book. The main antagonist, Otto, was as despicable as he possibly could have been. I hated him almost from the start.

While it takes quite a while to gain momentum (about 200 pages), this book is a thrill ride once it does pick up. I just wish it hadn't taken so long. The biggest issue I had with Birth of an Assassin was its dialogue. I'm not sure why, but the dialogue is extremely choppy and sometimes very unnatural. I think it is best described as someone translating Russian to English, but maybe that was what the author meant it to be. I honestly checked a couple times to see if perhaps the author was, in fact, Russian. It seemed especially odd because the rest of the writing flowed perfectly. The ending was satisfying enough, though I do wish we'd learned what happened to Jez's sisters (but maybe that's coming in a sequel).

All in all, this book is a good read as long as you can overlook the dialogue and make it through the first half of rather slow intro. I'd definitely recommend Birth of an Assassin to any military or history buff!

About the Author

Do children born into poverty become impoverished adults? It happens; pitfalls and roadblocks to advancement are everywhere. Rik Stone grew up poor amidst the slum-lands of fifties North East England, and left school at 15 without any academic qualifications. He worked in the shipyards on a local river and later went into the merchant navy. Further down the line, he worked quarries in Essex in South East England. But life was without horizons until, contrary to what his teachers had told him, he found he was capable of studying and completed a BSc degree in mathematics and computing. Life got lucky for him when he took company pension at 50 and began writing. And now, here he is offering up his debut novel Birth of an Assassin, the first in a series.

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