Book Review: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

What you should know

This is a novel about real world spying, relatively modern post-cold war espionage between nation states.  It is written by a retired intelligence professional.  I’m not sure anyone not interested in the genre would want to read it.  Just as I would guess anyone who is interested in the genre would most likely read it.  It is both violent and pro American, not as if those two characteristics go hand in hand.

What I liked

The story takes its time developing.  It isn’t in a hurry.  Which allows for readers to get to know the people as well as the places they inhabit.  The story is multilayered with several characters having to experience life and make choices about who they are, what they want to accomplish, and who they ultimately may become.

The author goes after President Putin.  Apparently, nobody wants to go after him in real life, at least it happens in this novel.

There is real suspense.  There are harrowing encounters.  The romantic aspect isn’t overdone.  Enough interest is built that you definitely want to know how it all turns out.

What I didn’t like

Jason Matthews gives one of the main characters, Dominika Egorova, a gift of sorts, the ability to sense letters as colors.  The diagnosis is that she is a synesthete, someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors.  Eventually she develops the ability to read emotions and even detect deception and ill will by interpreting the colors she sees around other people.  Fascinating.  Yet how would someone best take advantage of this?  To become a ballerina, apparently.  So our challenge then is whether to accept how someone with this ability would use it.  Would that Matthews had made a stronger case for why Dominika only uses it to survive internal office politics in Russia.

This is book one of a trilogy.  Book two is Palace of Treason and book three is The Kremlin’s Candidate.  While we certainly like trilogies when we can’t get enough of a story, this one left me wondering whether I’d ever read books 2 and 3.  That isn’t a good sign.

Recommendation:  Maybe Read

 

red sparrow

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