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Blades of Winter
by G.T. Almasi
DelRey/Ballantine, $9.99, 341pp
Release Date: August 28, 2012
This is a one helluva thrill ride.  Almasi has created a heroine/protagonist who is the nastiest kick-ass female since the Bride in “Kill Bill.”

Alix aka Scarlet (her operative name) is the daughter of two secret agents who work for an ultra-secret (is there any other kind?) government agency charged with perpetuating a cold war with the other three super powers.  In this alternate world, Germany was able to successfully invade Great Britain and America had no ally and no staging point for transatlantic invasion.  After cooler heads in Germany decided they’d had enough of Hitler and assassinated him, America took off after Japan .  After the dust settled, American found itself in bed with Germany while Russia and China buddied up.  But no one was happy with that status quo so a not-so-cold war flared up with each of the super powers trying to one-up each other.  Germany had made incredible breakthroughs with biotech enhancements of humans (read: super soldier) and after everyone had stolen the technology, everyone had their own.  It then became a question of who had the best.  And the best, at one time, was Alix’s father.

Alix, at nineteen, shows incredible potential as a secret agent assassin called a Level.  Her mother worries that her daughter’s field experiences will damage her as they did her father before he was killed by the bad guys.  Alix is cocksure and supremely confident in her own biotech enhancements and natural talent.  But when a reckless act by Scarlet indirectly uncovers a huge plot that seems to keep pulling up her father’s name, she simply has to get involved.  And the swath of destruction behind Scarlet puts the James Bond movies to shame.

This was a very exciting story, lots of espionage, lots of A-Team staging, and a pretty decent plot.  I know I keep comparing this to movies but that’s how it plays in my head. The characters were spot-on; we are inside Alix’s head the whole book and she’s a very appealing character.  We empathize with her but we never pity her; she’s an incredibly strong personality.  There’s that word again:  incredible.  I’ve used it several times and can’t seem to come up with an alternative.  So a likely assumption is that this story isn’t credible.  That’s not so far wrong but then what is in this genre?  This story would certainly appeal to any gamers, which I’m not.  I enjoyed the espionage and the female character.  This story would have been a run-of-the-mill boy agent story twenty years ago; Alix is what makes this a stand-out book.  ~ Catherine Book

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