The Reluctant Assassin: W.A.R.P., Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Reluctant Assassin: W.A.R.P., Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exhilarating but bloody tale starts off time travel series.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the seedy side of Victorian London, including slums like Old Nichol, with mentions of Bedlam, the notorious insane asylum, and the even more notorious Jack the Ripper. Plus mentions of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine and the theory of wormholes and other complicated concepts of time travel. Some talk of the best interrogation techniques learned in the FBI.

Positive Messages

The struggle of good vs. evil is the obvious one, since teens are pitted against a murderer they keep calling "the devil." What makes a person into a murderer? Riley may have been raised by "the devil," but his moral compass is still intact. There's also a question of what gives someone a sense of identity and purpose, especially someone growing up without a family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both teens, Chevie and Riley, are orphans who come from adversity and both stick to their principles and use their smarts to stay ahead of Garrick. Even though Riley is raised by a killer, he still sees killing as wrong. It's worth noting that Chevie is a Native American teen in a genre that has too few minority girls (or girls in general) to begin with.

Violence

The villain is an assassin for hire and for himself, so there are lots of killings and mentions of past hits, mostly with knives, with talk of pooling blood, a woman chopped in half, and other gory details. A cannon kills, gunshots wound and kill; there's a poisoning, a kidnapping, an arena fist fight with teeth knocked out, and a forced tattoo. Riley dwells on the murder of his parents when he was 3, and Chevie recalls the death of both her parents, one from a bear and the other in a motorcycle accident. Time travel can cause some gruesome mutations and leads one traveler to shoot himself because of it. Descriptions of a Victorian London slum show a world of despair and death -- Garrick recalls most of his family dying of cholera when he was young and his father returning to drink himself to death.

Sex

A couple of pecks on the cheek.

Language

Very mild: "hell" and "damn." "Wench" used in Victorian London. Chevie also must put up with being called "Injun princess" in that time period.

Consumerism

Quick mentions of things like Apple, McDonald's, Pink Floyd, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Victorian teen boys drink at breakfast (Chevie doesn't approve). Mentions of Chevie's dad drinking to excess and Garrick's father going to the slum to drink himself to death. Slum residents roll up wallpaper to smoke the glue that's attached.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Reluctant Assassin is the start of a series from the author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series, so many kids will want to read it. The publishers recommend this exhilarating time travel read for ages 12 and up, but it seems a better fit for teens who've already digested many high-action, high-violence PG-13 movies. The villain isn't the reluctant assassin -- he's very willing to kill and does it often, both for hire and for himself, with some gory detail. His assistant, 14-year-old Riley, is the reluctant one. Riley and Native American Chevie (hooray for girls in sci-fi!) face nonstop danger, including kidnapping, fighting for their lives in an arena, poisoning, and more. There's lots of talk of how they were orphaned and a view of a London slum with despair and death all around. Both Riley and Chevie are resilient characters who use serious smarts to stay ahead of the killer on their tail.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old December 16, 2013

Warp!!!

Excellent book. However There's assassinations, and some characters drink but nothing is ever too gory. 10 + overall.
Teen, 13 years old Written byGreenteadragon October 14, 2015
Awesome series- engaging, interesting characters work well in conjunction with a plot that keeps you turning the pages. Dialogue is smooth and well-written and... Continue reading

What's the story?

Seventeen-year-old Chevie feels stranded in London on a dull FBI assignment after the government shuts down a young trainee program in the States. She's supposed to monitor a strange pod while the scientist in charge sleeps -- a scientist who's just been staring at it for 30 years. But, just Chevie's luck, the thing fires up on her watch, and a dead man and a teen boy with a knife materialize before her. A heavily armed FBI clean-up crew arrives, locks up the boy, and packs into the pod. The head scientist hastily gives Chevie instructions and a Timekey in case they don't return. Chevie is still scratching her head in utter confusion as the team disappears -- for good. Arriving in their place? A crazed assassin named Garrick who's looking for his reluctant apprentice, Riley. As Chevie escapes into the city with Riley, they're shocked that Garrick is barely a step behind them. How does he know all the FBI passcodes and the location of the most secure safehouse in London? Something must have happened to the Victorian killer in the wormhole. Something that has made him virtually unstoppable.

Is it any good?

What an exhilarating series start! It really is impossible to put THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN down. (And when you read the vivid descriptions of Victorian slums you'll be too queasy for meals anyway, so it's not a problem.) The teen characters are fantastic -- Chevie especially, with all the cheek she gives her superiors and her raw FBI rookie talent.

The anything-but-reluctant assassin Garrick is pure villain, but he's not at all two-dimensional; it's particularly gripping when Colfer switches to his warped point of view. And all the dangers Chevie and Riley race into slyly peel away another layer of mystery and intrigue; it's brilliantly meticulous storytelling at high speed. Sci-fi fans ages 13 to 113, don't miss this one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what drew them to this sci-fi story. Were you a fan of the author's Artemis Fowl series? Do you like stories about time travel?

  • What did you learn about Victorian London? What else can you find out about the Old Nichol slum (this isn't the first novel to mention it) and Bedlam? Are they still there? Why was it called the Victorian age? When did it end?

  • Would you go back in time if you could? Why or why not? If you could bring one modern advance back with you, what would it be?

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