Book Review: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Title: Red Sparrow (Book 1)

Author: Jason Matthews

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Spy Thriller, Espionage, Russia

Publisher: Scribner

Goodreads Summary: In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller. 

My Thoughts: Before being sent away to the cold cells of Lubyanka, a disclaimer: I have not finished reading Red Sparrow. Although I’ve seen the hit thriller with Jennifer Lawrence, I’m only about 30 percent of the way through the actual book. That, in practice, helps me answer the question why I picked this up. After all, I am in the middle of two other books at the moment. The books in question, however, I have been studiously ignoring. If you’d ask me why, I could bury my face in my hands and let the muffled words “Graduate School” escape.

Which is not a lie.

School has me reading around 300 pages a week of international relations theory – so I’m not usually motivated to start reading yet another book. But after watching the movie Red Sparrow, I was confused. The plot itself was interesting but I felt something was missing. Some key notion of the movie was that you as the watcher were confused and not ‘in the know.’ It sparked my interest though, and here we are: reading Red Sparrow.

Around 30 percent into the novel on my Kindle and you could say I’m interested. It occupied my attention last night for an hour. And in all honesty, I’ve been in a bit of a book rut since finishing the latest Dresden Files. How do you jump out of a 15 book series back normalcy? How does one handle the jump from sassy writing back to a more descriptive form of literary fiction?

So far – my answer is unclear.

However, spy thrillers are always something that catches my attention and I couldn’t resist finding out more of the backstory behind the movie. So here we are. I’m enoying the book immensely. Each chapter is full of Russian idiosyncrasies and recipes related to something in the previous chapter. There’s just something that makes the book enjoyable, interesting and fascinating to read.

I am still early on so I’ll refrain from making any base assumptions about the book but suffice to say, I am thoroughly pleased that I seem to have broken through the reading block. It always seems to me that reading good books helps writers to write them. So I’m hopeful as ever that some of the inspiration I take from Red Sparrow won’t just be in my ways of evading SVR agents in my daily life, it will be in the way that I write going forward.

Rating: 4.8/5 Stars

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