Format: ARC (NetGalley)
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.
Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.
Pardon my French but that was my overall reaction to G.T. Almasi's debut novel, BLADES OF WINTER. I have never read anything like this! I don't even know how I'll classify it, all I know is that if Almasi intends to pay homage to John le Carré and Stan Lee, he did a stellar job of doing so, both the British author and Marvel Godfather will be proud of his first endeavor to continue the legacy of ass-kicking, super human heroes with heart pounding, science fiction stories glazed with espionage and lots and lots of big guns and heavy ammunition.
Almasi didn't specify the exact setting for BLADES OF WINTER but from several bullet points, I assume that the story is set in an alternative present. In Alix's world, the Germans essentially won WWII and now rules most of Europe. Together with the US, China and Russia, they complete The Four. Four superpowers who rule and control the world in a political and military game similar to Risk. Aside from military and munition advancements, The Four managed to develop super humans or bionics. I love Almasi's depiction of bionics and how they came to be, he made it special but not too technical and highfalutin that it would turn off readers who are not into science fiction such as myself. Alix's world was futuristic but not to the extent that it became a boring scientific drone of bio-technology warfare similar to Terminator or Total Recall. My favorite parts were the history lessons doled out in flashforward style to reinforce the political climate Almasi painted.
I don't know, Raj. It seems like you could eat me for dinner and still have plenty of room for dessert.
Yeah, Scarlet, I could, but all your metal and plastic wouldn't be so good for my digestion.
Alixandra Janina Nico, codename Scarlet, is everything you want your heroine to be. This 19yo redheaded bionic, yes BIONIC, teen was a former world class gymnast before she got recruited by ExOps. Receiving a bunch of mechanical and biological modifications and enhancements making her almost invincible. Alix is a natural spy taking after her father, legendary Philip Nico, is THE best agent ExOps ever had and Alix is closely following in his footsteps. She's a sarcastic, daring and beautiful super spy who is very skilled in combat, a machine and a lethal one at that. Taking out enemies without remorse, Alix won't have second thoughts ripping your spine out with a forceful yank or castrate you mid conversation just to prove she can.
I was conflicted reading BLADES OF WINTER, I don't if I should slow down or match the jolting pace that G.T. Almasi set. From page 1 we have people and places exploding and it only intensifies with every chapter, culminating into a clusterfuck of situations that had Alix chasing after spies from all points of the world. With her partner and part-time lover, Trick, they uncover treasonous conspiracies along the way that had Alix going in and out of the hospital. But more importantly, Alix discovers that Big Bertha, the most infamous agent the world has known, aka Philip Nico, her father is still alive and Alix made it her mission to find and save her Dad.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having overdone it last night, and I detest all the booze I drank because I dread the loss of my lunch and the pain of puking my guts out. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy Grace to avoid the cheap stuff, to never again mix grain and grape, and to make sure I eat something beforehand. Amen.
- Alix's Act of Contrition
But before Alix is reunited with her father, she must run other missions and tie loose ends that will eventually lead her to her father. For now she has to take care of Winter, the man who runs the Blades of Persia, a group rumored to be working to reclaim the Middle East from the Germans. This was Big Bertha's last case and information about Philip's last mission is crucial if helping Alix discover what happened to her father and where his current location is.
I never thought I'd enjoy, much less fawn over, a book like this. BLADES OF WINTER gave me such a rush that the adrenaline high lasted long after I finished the darn book. It also didn't help that Almasi ended the in one of those WTH?! moments that if it were a real book, I'd be shaking it silly in case there's a missing page hidden somewhere. If you're into high action/adventure books with a witty, cunning and deadly heroines, BLADES OF WINTER is THE book for you. G.T. Almasi can't write a stronger book than this, it's sharper and more lethal than Adamantium claws. Read the excerpt if you need more convincing.