Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review: Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

by Gregg Hurwitz
Release Date: January 26th 2021
2021 MInotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250252289
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new name – The Nowhere Man―and a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer - in exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do—live a normal life.

But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew—his mother. Her unlikely request: help Andrew Duran—a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures. Now a brutal brother & sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything he’s fought for is on the line—including his own life.
My Thoughts
Prodigal Son is the sixth book in the Orphan X series, and while I really enjoyed the book, it definitely had a different flavour from the earlier books.  In this one, Evan is sort of retired and is searching for meaning in his life, trying to enjoy everyday activities, trying to achieve 'normalcy'.  While I don't have a problem with this, and enjoyed Evan's blundering attempts at socializing, it was the author's constant repeated reminders of what he was doing that sort of got annoying.  Trust me, we get it, and to be honest, while I like the more human side of Evan, I LIKED the Nowhere Man and his missions.  So, in essence, what this novel really felt like, was a transitional novel where Evan realizes that maybe he is not cut out for the conventional life and NEEDS to be helping others, despite the government and despite the president of the United States.
Evan Smoak is one of the reasons why I read these books as I love his character.  He is definitely flawed as he lacks social graces and doesn't know how to handle normal situations with people; part of the enjoyment in this series is his interactions with the people in his apartment building when he comes home full of blood with his clothing ripped and torn and has to explain away what happened.  And then he is invited to birthday parties and wedding celebrations, but has no idea what to do at these things or how to interact with people when he is there.  His character has grown so much over the books and I really look forward to more development as he continues to interact with Mia, her son, and of course, Joey.
For me, one of the highlights of this book was his interactions with Joey, and the way he realized his feelings were so much more than he thought , especially when he understands that Joey's transformation is due to a BOY.  As a reader, you've known those feelings have always been there, but in this book, they finally exploded and I was thrilled to see the two of them acknowledge their relationship and how much they mean to each other.  And I have to say, an author who can mix real emotions with big thrills is a win-win for me.   

The author has a real talent for mixing spectacular thrill scenes with normal day-to-day scenes.  There is definitely the usual hacking, the explosions, the fight scenes, and the other high adrenaline scenes you would expect from an Orphan X book, but I do feel they were tamed down a bit from previous books as the author focused a lot more on Evan's struggle to be a normal human being.  Throughout the book, Evan was trying to reconcile himself with the fact that he enjoyed doing these things and that he was good at them with the fact that he could get into a lot of trouble from the powers that be. That being said, Evan was up against drone warfare in this book, and I am really curious as to where this is heading in the next book as it clearly wasn't finished in this one.  A hugely fascinating topic!! 

Prodigal Son seemed to be more of a transitional novel as Evan grappled with the concept of retirement and what to do with the rest of his life.  The character development is really good and for that reason, I do recommend that readers begin with the first book in the series as a lot of the elements do tie together. There is a spectacular ending to this book, but if you really paid attention, you will know exactly how Evan will probably be able to save himself in the next book.  This is probably one of the best thriller series I have read where I really care about the characters and what happens to them, so I find the scenes where Evan grapples with his humanity and his relationships so fascinating.  Highly recommend this series.