The very best thing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like an American perspective dominates the story. As a reader, you feel at all times that you’re getting an insider’s angle, which is refreshing compared to many modern spy/espionage books where an American has to ride in and save the day. Even the terrorists here are portrayed as complex characters with thoughtful motivations. Kamal, as a main character, works perfectly to lead the way into the complexities of Pakistan. I found the political characters just as interesting as Kamal, and the layers and layers of complication involved in the government were gripping. The flavor of the culture comes through at every point in this book, and it always feels like it’s written by someone who genuinely knows this world. Some people might find the bits of native-tongue dialogue annoying or frustrating when not translated, but I really appreciated the touch.
I can’t comment on the “accuracy” of any of the Pakistani political or military elements because that is all quite literally foreign to me, but this book certainly intensified my curiosity about a part of the world I know little about. And since this is a work of fiction, I think it’s fine to just go along with it and dive into the story. The military action and spy/thriller parts of the book are smart and thought out, and again it’s helpful to take this all in through Kamal’s eyes. The slower, more tension-building parts of the book are equally well-crafted. Kamal is just as dangerous and deadly as he is smart and capable, which is a nice balance for this kind of story.
Sometimes jumping to new characters was a bit confusing because they were so minor you forgot about them for a while, but the ending pulls everything back together so you see what the author was doing, even if it’s a tiny bit lurching. But, since this IS a book about spies, I liked that I had to really focus and try to sort out some things for myself rather than have every little answer handed to me. And there are some typos scattered throughout, but nothing anywhere near distracting enough to make me stop reading.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes spy novels and/or who wants to get a feel for a part of the world most of us aren’t exposed to.
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