Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Russian Roulette - Anthony Horowitz

Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz
Series: Alex Rider #10
Genre: YA, action
Published on October 1, 2013
Published by Philomel
Pages: 372
Read From: 10.11.13 - 10.12.13

Alex Rider's life changed forever with one bullet and the pull of a trigger. 

It was the cold-blooded contract killer Yassen Gregorovich who changed Alex Rider's life. Aged just fourteen, Alex was thrust into the chaos of international espionage - the world's only teenage spy. The two have been mortal enemies ever since. 
Yet, as a boy, Yassen was mentored by someone very much like Alex. What turned him into such a ruthless assassin? In some ways, Alex and Yassen are mirror images of each other. One chose to be a hero. The other chose evil. 
This is Yassen's story. A journey down a darkened path.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yeah, there's a character impersonator in the background, but he's not terribly noticeable, so it doesn't bother me as much. I liked the old Alex Rider covers better; they weren't as busy. But Russian Roulette definitely screams action and excitement, and it catches my interest.

Characters: Yassen Gregorovich has always been my absolute favorite character in this entire series. Not exactly a villain, he always treated his assassinations as just a job; there was nothing personal in it. I could always tell that he had a tragic past, because it was easy to see that he was someone who really was a regular, and even decent person; so obviously something horrible had to have happened to make him turn to killing for his profession. Normally backstories for villains (though I kind of consider Yassen more of an anti-hero) will ruin them. You can make a villain too sympathetic. However, with Yassen, it just made him that much more of a brilliant character; that much more tragic; that much more complex. I positively enjoyed seeing him as a kid, a youth, and finally a young man; I enjoyed seeing him grow as a character, seeing the changes that took place in his personality that made him the amazing assassin we Alex Rider fans know him as. You wouldn't think an assassin would be an easy character to emotionally connect to, but Yassen is. Because Yassen really is a good person, and circumstances and a betrayal he can never forgive change him. Talk about tragic! The other characters we meet in this story - Yassen's best friend Leo; the Moscow street boys who take Yassen in; Sharkovsky and his dreadful son Ivan; even John Rider, Alex's father - are all very interesting and complex. Sharkovsky was so creepy and Ivan was even worse. I loved actually meeting Alex Rider's father, and Leo . . . All I can say is: poor Leo! And poor Yassen!

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Russian Roulette picks up after the events of Stormbreaker. Yassen Gregorovich has just been ordered to kill Alex Rider. This causes Yassen to take a moment and review his past life; to reflect on how he came to be where he was. Yassen is a careful assassin, but his one weakness is a journal he's kept, and it is as he reads this journal that Readers are introduced to Yassen's past life, when he wasn't Yassen Gregorovich the assassin, but Yasha Gregorovich - a Russian boy living in a poor village that doesn't exist anymore. When Yasha is forced to leave his village and everything he knew, he has no idea that his life is about to change forever. Without friend or family, he finds himself stranded in Moscow, and when he attracts the unwanted attentions of Vladimir Sharkovsky - Moscow's richest, most powerful, and most ruthless criminal - Yassen finds out that survival is all that matters to him now. This is a major emotional read. Even if Yassen wasn't a favorite character, there's no way he won't be after this. A boy of fourteen, he's just lost everything, has no friends, no help, and then suddenly things just go even more horribly wrong. I bawled my eyes out in the beginning, when he had to leave his village and his best friend Leo, and I bawled my eyes out when he was forced to work for Sharkovsky, where he was terrorized and beaten and humiliated every day of his life. He can't trust anyone and he has no hope of escape. It was so unbelievably sad and painful to read! I wanted to snatch Yassen out of the story and give him a good life and a good home! The plot itself didn't have much of a structure. The Reader knows that whatever happens, Yassen will end up an assassin, so the plot is more about what all happens to him to make him choose that way of life, rather than it being about one iconic moment. It's not a from Point A to Point B plot. But because it's sort of a prequel to the entire Alex Rider series, I was fine with a totally character-driven book rather than plot-driven.

Believability: No complaints, except one: Yassen's narration is supposed to be his journal, and his journal is written in Russian; yet he defines Russian words several times. Why would he do that in his own private journal when Russian is his native language?

Writing Style: First person, past tense. While the backstory is supposed to be Yassen reading his journal, it doesn't really read like a journal narration; there's no date headings at the beginning of each chapter. It feels more like he's talking to someone, and I really liked it. I also liked that while Yassen is relating very tragic happenings, it never once sounds like he's pitying himself. He's just telling what happened as it was, and nothing more. The narration is not very moment-by-moment, but encompasses a lot of events in a short span of time. Normally, I don't like it when this sort of narration is kept up throughout a book because it keeps me from getting to know any of the side characters. But Yassen breaks into a moment-by-moment narration at the most iconic moments, so it works. As usual, the Author's style is very action-packed, filled with technical details, and doesn't really have any poetry to it. But it works for the book, and what he lacks in poetic rhythm, he makes up for in a very emotionally-charged narration.

Content: None.

Conclusion: While everything that happens to Yassen leads to his becoming an assassin, it really isn't until the very end that we see what major event truly made him turn. And it is perhaps the most depressing moment in the whole book. It's also the most satisfying; the entire time, I really wanted Yassen to be able to get his revenge against Sharkovsky. We're not disappointed. I was thrilled with Russian Roulette. My favorite character finally got his own book! And it was amazing! It made me love his character more than ever, and it explained a lot about him and about John Rider. I wasn't expecting it to be so emotional, but it was, and it really couldn't have been any other way.

Recommended Audience: Guy-read (and girls who like Alex Rider!), sixteen-and-up, great for fans of action and spy novels - and especially fans of Yassen Gregorovich.

Others in the Alex Rider Series:
2)Point Blank
3)Skeleton Key
4)Eagle Strike
6)Ark Angel
8)Crocodile Tears
9)Scorpia Rising
10)Russian Roulette


  1. I can't wait to read this book, especially after reading this review.

    1. I hope you end up enjoying it as much as I did! :)

  2. I'am glad to read the whole content of this blog and am very excited.Thank you.



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