By Kaitlyn Stockdale
These days government agencies have been popularly romanized as great settings for movies, TV shows and books; however in real life things are more complicated. We trust them because we have to, and we understand that we don’t always know what they’re doing, but we accept them because they are, after all, trying to protect us.
But what if one of them was corrupt?
That’s the central question in The Drafter the first book in the new series The Perri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison. The action novel revolves around a government secret agent, Perri Reed, who has to deal with the looming question of corruption as she struggles to remember who she is after multiple memory losses. With power comes a price, and the price of changing time is forgetting it.
Perri’s a “drafter,” a person who can go back in time and create a new timeline, but it’s the second one, the “draft,” that sticks. And after the two timelines “mesh” and time snaps back, drafters can’t remember either timeline, and they lose parts of their memory of their lives before the draft, depending on how large of a change they make – at least according to Opti, a government agency. And of course they need a partner, someone to rely on, an “anchor” who can help drafters remember what they’ve forgotten. With all the trust involved in the partnership, working together for Opti as spies or even assassins, Perri falls in love with her “anchor,” Jack.
Then he betrays her, and everything falls apart.
So what do you do when you find out you might be corrupt, but you can’t remember if you are? And what do you do when you find out the government agency you work for has implanted a tracking device in you without your knowledge? And what do you do when you find out that the people you work for can wipe your memory at any time and remake you into whoever they want you to be?
For Perri, it’s simple. You fight back.
This book is all action while cleverly playing on one of society’s biggest questions: Who am I? And this question is not just addressed to children and teenagers, but to the adult that is having her mind twisted at arbitrary commands. And now Perri has to face not knowing who she is. Her mind tells her she’d never go corrupt, but her intuition tells her something isn’t right, and she wonders if she’s the reason why.
And that’s an important point, Perri is not a perfect hero. In fact, she may not even be a hero. She likes the freedom and power that Opti gives her, so much that some people – including Perri herself – wonder if she didn’t realize the corruption sooner because she didn’t want to. And even more than that, she’s a strong character who still falls for human weakness – her relationship with Jack is all about pretty things: elegant clothes, fast cars and high society. This fake relationship continues to taunt her, lure her, throughout the novel, even after Perri realizes that Jack had been using her for three years.
Perri’s not always a likeable character. She has an independent streak but is also used to relying on someone else, an anchor. This combination makes her rude, self-serving, and often shortsighted. It makes her easy to manipulate, and oftentimes she takes too long to recognize difficult truths, so that by the time she does realize them, it’s already too late.
She’s a flawed character, but as she realizes her flaws and tries to change them, readers root for her. Because as humans we are all flawed and for us, sometimes it is easier not to pry, to take things at face value, and to be content to have people respect us, love us or even be in awe of us. As the book progresses, readers fall into Perri’s story because they can see themselves in her.
The book is full of twists that keep readers guessing, all while playing on their fears. Fears that everyone can relate to, that your friends are not really your friends, that the person you love could betray you, and that there’s no one in the world you can trust – not even yourself.
Harrison takes a James Bond-like character and knocks her off her pedestal, reminding us all that we are not infallible. Perri’s flaws, even down to the hidden plotline of her estranged relationship with her mother and her desperate struggle to control her own life, make her more relatable and more likable than the classic gun-toting, thug-slinging, super-secret agent.
The Drafter strips the mystery away from spy work and reveals a character that is not always perfect, real or determined to take control of her life. It’s high paced with dozens of twists and clever foreshadowing, leaving readers guessing until the very end. A perfect debut novel, you’ll be caught up in Perri’s story and ready for more.
Kaitlyn Stockdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.