Synopsis via goodreads:
Rocked to the core by traitors and spies, the Organization made an unprecedented move in bringing together six highly trained men to track down one rogue wolf: The Archer. There are three field agents: one at the top of his game, one hoping to retire, and another walking the line; a cold-blooded assassin who can use any weapon known to man; a demolitions expert who can’t resist the allure of fire; and a computer hacker with more tricks in his mouse than Houdini. This team is made up of the best of the best, and if it can’t succeed in this impossible mission, no one can. But no plan survives first contact with the enemy – especially when you can’t even find out who he is! Despite what a cluster the assignment is from the start, the six men try to get their act together to track down the rogue operative, and in the process they discover there’s more to life than the next assignment. Now it’s up to them to survive by working together and determining who the real traitor is: an unknown friend, a close-by enemy, or the Organization itself.
When I close a book I want to feel satisfaction at the knowledge that I’ve learned something, had my heart broken and then mended, experienced a rip-roaring adventure, or laughed myself silly. When I close a book, my first thought should not be, “Oh my God, that was such a mess. I can’t wait to rant about it on my blog.” But that was pretty much how I felt about this book when I was done. It was a complete mess from start to finish, it went on for way too long, and ended on a cheap cliffhanger for a sequel that hasn’t been written, which I will skip if it ever sees the light of day. I read a comment somewhere online that The Archer started out as fan fiction. I can’t find verification of this, because my google foo is not particularly strong, but if it’s true, it’s not a huge shocker.
I’m not much of a mystery reader, and I’m not typically interested in spy novels. Honestly, I bought this one because the plot seemed like it would be epic and a little cracky, and I was hoping for some fun romance amidst blazing guns. That said, a spy novel should be well-plotted, so that the reader can follow the clues and try to figure things out before the characters do. This novel was not well-plotted. In fact, I’m not convinced the author had any idea where she was going to end up once she started writing. The characters spend much of the novel crossing and double-crossing each other, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and shagging like bunnies. None of them had the first clue what was going on, and so neither did I. Characterization was inconsistent at best, and of the six major protagonists, I only really liked one of them. I felt, as I was reading, that this was the literary equivalent of a Loony Tunes cartoon, with the titular Archer being the Road Runner and all the characters being Wile E. Coyote, destroying themselves with their own incompetence. Only in this book, there was more buttsex.
Honestly, the lack of romance didn’t especially bother me. I thought at first that it was refreshing to see all the bed-hopping going on between the characters. Then it got to be a bit much, and taken to comic levels. Leave any configuration of two of these men in a room together for thirty seconds, and you’d come back to find them screwing like bunnies. That made it difficult for me to buy the supposedly epic love story between Sean and Remy, two of the agents. They’ve been working together for five years, but a bunch of betrayal and miscommunication create a chasm they keep trying to cross. After all, if their love was so epic, why did Remy literally sleep with every other member of the team at one point? And Sean wasn’t exactly celibate, either. Then, at the end of the story, that epic romance arc, which the author wanted me to care about so desperately, was simply left up in the air. There was no happy for now ending, even. Had i actually not despised both Remy and Sean, I’d have been pissed.
The one character I actually connected with was the crazy demolitions expert, Brant. I loved that he walked the knife’s edge of sanity, and that he went from crazy dude with the grenades to mother hen in three seconds flat. I also thought his hooking up with Carl, the trained killer, was much more realistic, and much less stupidly angsty, and had a moment’s annoyance when it looked like Brant would end up with someone else, a plot decision I thought owed more to amping up drama than any kind of consistent characterization.
Speaking of characterization, I had another issue. I tend to prefer my M/M books to be written by people who are OK being identified as women. It means I can put the men in the category of fantasy men and not worry too much about whether real guys would act like the ones in books, because, dude, I read romance. Romance men don’t act like their real life counterparts in het fiction, either. That said, this was a book about alpha male spies. There is no crying in baseball, and I would think that, conversely, there is no crying in spying.(See what I did there?) And yet, tears flowed like veritable rivers from these men, particularly from Sean and Remy, when one or the other would act like a total asshat to the other one.
The other problem with the story was that it takes a lot of skill to juggle six protagonists. Most authors do not have that skill. Abigail Roux is not on my list of authors who do. Even before the halfway mark, I thought there were too many characters, and then a bunch more get inserted into the cast, including a woman, whose sole purpose appears to be, I don’t know, flailing helplessly because she was accidentally stuck on a train with our merry band of Acme ® spies. The woman bothered me quite a lot, because there was no plot purpose for her being there, and no need to give her a POV chapter, both of which she got. Was she meant to be paired off with one of the other men in the sequel that is apparently in the works? I have no idea, but she was so much dead weight.
The author also tells rather than shows in several places. One of the six gets a romance, seemingly at random, and we get to find out that his love is just as epic as the Sean/Remy romance. Not because it’s proven, but because the author points it out. Another of the six is described as the gentle nurturing one, not because he is especially gentle or nurturing, but, again, because she says so.
I never believed any of these characters were good spies. Even the characters laugh at their incompetence, so reading the blurb above about how they’re all men at the top of their game makes me roll my eyes. In the end, I never saw any of them do anything awesome, and I was left feeling little was resolved, and that I’d wasted my time.
If you’re looking for action-packed spy thrills, this isn’t the book I’d recommend. If you want M/M fiction with a good mystery, look elsewhere. Only read this if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. There was only one character I liked, and it’s Brant that’s saving this from a full-fledged F grade. There are much better M/M books out there. Skip this and read anything else.
Final Grade: D
P.S. Another book I’m reading right now is George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. (Speaking of people who have too many characters in their books!) One of the characters in that book keeps wondering, sometimes out loud, “Where do whores go?” So I figured I’d make that a question I would ask in my reviews.
So… would whores go to the world of this book? they’d probably get blown up or dragged along for no good reason. But the team of super-competent Acme ® spies have no use for whores, since they’re busy with each other.