Writer: Jason Matthews
Palace of Treason
Second novel of the Red Sparrow trilogy. Still super male gaze-y.
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Sleep is important, so I have been trying to avoid reading late, but Red Sparrow kept me reading long after my bedtime, (not that that’s hard). If the ads are to be believed, (and maybe they’re not), Red Sparrow was made into a very sexy, very violent, movie starting Jennifer Lawrence. There is a lot of sex in the book to draw on: It’s pretty clear that Dominika is the sexiest woman ever to walk the earth, and she’s described through a very male gaze. It sounds like Nate’s not to shabby either, but author Jason Matthews doesn’t spend time talking about his attractiveness.
With that out of the way, Red Sparrow is a great spy novel set in the modern era with Putin in charge of Russia. While there are holes, (why would Nate, a young agent just out of CIA school, be handling the CIA’s most important informer in Russia?), the time in the streets and developed complex relationships, (and at least some personalities), make the book hard to put down. It’s clear that the relationship between Nate and Dominika will be important in the trilogy, (yes, this is the start of a trilogy! I hope the next two books are as great as the first). Although maybe the author should kill Nate – that would be a heartbreaking move that would let Dominika’s character become dominant.
Like many Russian spy novels there are a lot of random words and phrases in Russian sprinkled in the text. In Red Sparrow it’s a technique used when two bilingual characters are talking, so code switching is natural. Unfortunately for me I don’t understand Russian so I feel like I’m missing a little bit of information. Mr. Mathews tries, (it seems, but I since I don’t understand Russian I’m not 100% sure), to try to provide a phrase to explain what was expressed in Russian when it’s not too awkward, so that helps, but if possible I will add an English-Russian dictionary to my Kobo.
The sense of place is very strong in Red Sparrow; the all of the places in the story feel extremely real. Looking back at other books I have realized that this is something I really love in books, for example it’s why I liked The Night Circus so much even though the last part of the plot is somewhat weak.
The atmosphere is especially compelling in the final scene of the book, which itself is a combination of an amazing cliffhanger and a great place to end the story. This makes it a great place to end the first book of a trilogy, but even if there weren’t two more books coming it would be a good place to end the story. I would be grumpy about some unresolved parts of the story, but not every book has to tie up every plot point perfectly, in fact, I often like it better when they don’t. Since I know that there are two more books, though, I might get my story tied up nicely in a bow, so long as Jason Matthews doesn’t wreck it in the next two books.