I really wanted to read this book because I heard that it was being made into a movie. I’m a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan so I was excited to watch it … but before watching, I wanted to read the novel and see how it was. I love spy-ish movies and stories so it was a no-brainer for me to choose this as my next read. Here’s my review:
Summary (Goodreads): In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.
Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.
Review: I was surprised at how long it took me to read this book! It looked fairly short but it had super tiny font – so consider yourself warned!
This is a very detailed book. I had always figured that espionage would be very meticulous and intricate, but I had no idea how much until I read this book. The author has carefully researched and outlined every small thing in this story. I really appreciated this attention to detail because it created a lot of depth and gave the reader a very full picture of what it means to be part of the espionage world. It also gives the reader an understanding of politics and the different mind games that can take place, which is where all the fun happens! At times, this level of detail could be overwhelming; it is one of the reasons why it took me so long to finish this book. However, now that I have completed it, I can see no better way of telling this story.
The characters in this novel were very unique. Dominika is fiery, egotistical, and able to adapt to every situation. She is so smart and I really empathized with her feelings of being used as a pawn; she wanted to be so much more, knew she could be so much more, and I loved that about her. However, I didn’t like that the author made her very impulsive and moody. It just didn’t fit with the image of a spy that the author kept pushing forward. I liked that she had spunk but her outbursts were a little shocking to me, and seemed incompatible with the rest of her character. I also didn’t really like Luke. There didn’t seem to be too much of substance there. While I liked that Dominika was the driving force behind this novel, I wish that Luke had been a worthy match for her strong character.
The story’s pacing is a little weird. I can’t really classify it as fast or slow; its tempo changed as it progressed, ramping up and down as needed based on the events that were about to unfold. There were times when I wish things would progress faster … but it made sense why it didn’t.
The writing style was something else I am struggling to characterize. I think that it worked for telling this kind of story. It was a cold and calculated voice that distanced the reader from the characters. I can see why a lot of people would find it off-putting but it reminded me a lot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hypnotist so I didn’t really mind it too much. I thought it was really cool how each chapter ended with recipes of a dish that was described in that chapter; it wasn’t strictly necessary but it was an interesting tidbit.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I would give this a 3.5/5 stars. I think it took me time to start to really get into the novel; at first, I felt bogged down by all the details. Once I got used to the details and the writing style, I found myself caught up in the political intrigue. I definitely want to continue reading the rest of the books in the series, especially since this one ended on a cliffhanger. But before that, I’m going to go and check out the movie!