Reaper: Drone Strike [Review]

Book Name: Reaper: Drone Strike
Series: The Reapers Book: # 3
Author: Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Book Type: Physical > Paperback > ARC
Pages: 354
Genre: Fiction, War, Military Fiction
Start Date: 05.04.2020
End Date: 05.16.2020

Giveaway Disclaimer: I received this book from a Goodreads Giveaway set up by St. Martin’s Press. This does not affect my opinions in anyway. I will still give my honest thoughts, feedback, and review of the book based off of what I think of it.

Summary From Goodreads:
On a classified mission to help the Israeli Defense Forces stop a Syrian and Hezbollah invasion to seize the Golan Heights, Ranger sniper Vick Harwood and his spotter go deep undercover. Operating with limited support from the American and Israeli governments, Vick is out on the edge.

Alessandra Cavezza, Director of Operations in Syria for the Italian UN Commission for Refugees, is moving families out of an embattled neighborhood. The nearly vacant suburb has been a haven for anti-Assad forces, ISIS militants, and Russian private military contractors. As she crawls into the basement of a home to help find a young girl’s doll, she finds a secret room that has detailed descriptions of unthinkable attacks on the United States, and falls into the hands of a madman: Jasar Tankian, Lebanese mastermind behind the plots.

As Syrian tanks attempt to push through Israeli defenses at the border, Team Reaper picks off Syrian tank commanders as they battle Israeli tanks, jets, and infantrymen. Combat intensifies as Vick goes black on ammunition. Commandeering a cargo drone to deliver Team Reaper to a landing zone near the coordinates, Vick becomes Alessandra’s–and America’s–only hope for survival.

Condense Review (No Spoilers)

I realized that I like to ramble about the books I like and go on and on and on….So I’ve decided, from now on, to include a tiny section where I just condense my opinions into a quick, short, and simple review. For this one, at least, I also have minor spoilers in my actual review below, so this one is spoiler-free and gets to the point.

Expanded Plot:

The plot starts off with Sassi or Alessandra Cavezza, the Director of Operations in Syria for the Italian UN Commission for Refugees. She’s patching up a shrapnel wound on a little girl, Fatima, who whispers to her that she Aamina is missing. After a (very) close encounter with a Russian commander, she goes to look for Aamina, Fatima’s doll. Sassi finds Aamina in a basement and crawls down to retrieve the doll. On her way out, she notices, through a narrow tunnel, a world map with pins and strings. There are several pins all around the world including Syria and Lebanon. There was a single pin from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon to Tripoli and Cyprus, eventually webbing out to multiple United States and Canadian East Coast and Midwest pins.

Taking a picture to upload to her cloud, Sassi brushes off the map and pins as perhaps a geography lesson or even a merchant business plan left behind. However, she is quickly chased out when the ceiling hatch bursts open and men come out shooting at her with AK-47s. It’s clear that she saw something she was not supposed to, even if she didn’t know what the map even meant. Making her second narrow escape of the day, Sassi takes Fatima and escapes the town with Hakim, Sassi’s friend and interpreter.

The next chapters introduces us to the point of views of a few other major characters including Wolff Maximillian, the CEO of a luxurious automobile company that Max had helped bring to great heights only for it to crash down to near bankruptcy, Jasir Tankian, a mastermind logistician, and our Ranger Sniper protagonist, Vick Harwood, and his spotter, Ian Nolte.

Harwood and Ian are on a black mission to overwatch a logistics operations led by a merchant in the Beqaa Valley. They were to watch over and see where chemical weapons are coming from and gather intel on who is resupplying Hezbollah and the Syrians. Things seem to be going smoothly as Harwood and Ian begin to engage and shoot at the convoys. However, Ian is injured on the mission and Harwood attempts to evacuate Ian to safety via a cargo drone, only for the drone to be shot down. Knowing that Ian is most likely alive, Harwood rushes to save his friend. Having already lost two of his spotters, he refuses to let another one die on him, but with supplies low and nobody to back him up, Harwood is now alone in the rescue mission and he needs to get to Ian before he lands in the terrorists’ hands.

Expanded Review (May Contains Minor Spoilers):

Before I get into the review, I have a random funny fact to share about this book. The amount of times this [following] statement was used throughout the book and by different people was highly amusing to me (maybe b/c I find myself saying this a lot myself); “It has to be it,” “What else could it mean,” and “Who else could it be” was dotted throughout the book. Usually, I don’t notice stupidly small things like this, but then again, once I notice a pattern, I end up being weirdly giddy. Nothing to do with the book. Just a funny thing I noticed harhar.

[Ok ok, back on topic].  

This is my first military fiction (meaning I haven’t read the previous two books in this series either) and I must say I highly enjoyed it! I’m a thriller kind of girl and even this was extra thrilling. I’m used to one single kind of thriller, the cop/detective/mystery thrills. Usually (not always), a police thriller gets exciting because of some chase, but the actual battle and gunfight/fistfight/car chase, is limited to a couple of scenes. You know, when the crook is finally smoked out and it’s a “I’m going to die today or go to jail today” no escape moments, the last and peak conflict scene/s. It’s where the police gather what forces they can find and collab to storm a house or hunt down a rouge, but now identified, criminal. Basically, it’s the end.

In this book, the action is from the first point to the last, heck, even leaving off on a cliffhanger! In the first chapter, guns are already drawn as Sassi tries to make it out of the town alive, then we hop over Harwood and Ian getting ready to engage the convoy, and we just get scene after scene of non-stop action. When Ian goes missing, and it’s only Harwood left, Harwood goes on a mad chase after his friend by taking down groups of enemies on his lonesome. Even Sassi, who has a poor view of the armed forces and of violence in general, eventually joins in with Harwood (more as a support, but she can kick some ass herself ya know!).

Imagery is important in every book, otherwise you’ll end up reading a book of outside terminology, on a topic you are unfamiliar with, and drop it like a hot potato, because you’re too busy pondering about what the heck a certain word means. That was one thing I feared coming into this book. As someone with no knowledge of anything related to the military, and not much knowledge of the conflicts happening in the Middle East, I was afraid that I was going to understand nothing of anything of what’s going on; the terminology, the machinery or equipment, the military slangs that might be used.

The authors takes care of that for you. Sure, I ended up Googling half the tanks and guns in this book, but that was out of sheer curiosity to find a pretty colored picture to match the guide. Most of my worries were whisked away because Nicholas and A.J. (authors) did a fantastic job explaining a lot. Machines, drones, and tanks were well explained. I was able to thoroughly enjoy the book and its multiple fight scenes because the action was written well and details were explained nicely. Still, even without a very good explanation, the book was still pretty readable and very much enjoyable.

You can feel the intensity of the fight and, more importantly, you can feel the situation at hand (in a way). Vick is out there, alone (mostly), trying to take on loads of armed men like he’s some sort of RPG video game character going into a raid dungeon with no other party members (was that too nerdy?). You can feel the gears running in Harwood as he tries to calculate who to take down first without the other guards noticing. You can feel the sense of being alone and Harwood even mentions it; to do such a job well done that the enemy thinks there are more opponents than just a single ranger sniper alone. What the enemy perceives is just as important as your own plans.

The characters are fleshed out and I enjoyed reading everyone’s point of views and way thinking. Of the four major characters, Harwood, Tankian, Sassi, and Max, I think I found the former three to be the most interesting, with Tankian the top interesting character in the book (sorry Max, didn’t have much of an opinion of you…besides how terrifying you can be). Yes. That’s right. I found Tankian to be even more interesting than our book’s hero and protagonist, Harwood!

Tankian, one of our main antagonists of the book, was a very interesting character. I spent a good 10 minutes muttering, to myself, about this man. A master logistician, his family was killed in a bombing, and his face scarred, but he is devoid of typical grieving emotions(???) Stone cold, maybe even on a sociopath level? Here’s a paragraph I highlighted in the book without overly spoiling:

“Tankian had been just ten years old at the time of the bombing in 1983. In an instant, his entire family was obliterated. Oddly, he didn’t harbor any resentment toward the Israelis or Americans. The one thing he had learned at the knee of his business-oriented parents was that everything was indeed about business.”

Reaper: Drone Strike, Page 66 (Irving and Tata)

Yes, typical of a villain, is that they are scoped in and very focused on one emotion. Tankian’s “emotion” is money and business. The only thing he worships is currency (even then he’s picky about accepting dollars and pounds over euros and gold/silver/etc). I think, I was so focused on, and so intrigued about Tankian, because of his lack of feeling of… hatred? (I can’t word my feelings about it properly) I constantly read (or watch) a lot of characters develop throughout a series, propelled and fueled by hatred. They start off weak and angry, they grow to become strong and angry, and then (through friendship, love, and peace! 👊) they learn to accept their past and let go of anger. Tankian is intriguing and weirdly unsettling, because the first moment we get to know about this character, it’s him explaining how he holds no anger towards those that killed his parents, brother, and destroyed his childhood, just this odd sense of admiration because in the end, feelings don’t mean squat and it’s all about business. And of course, he starts to gain emotions and a (sort of) character growth when he learns hatred and begins to hunger for revenge (and still, it was about business and not personal family feelings).

Sassi, was the initial damsel in distress. The kind I hated in YA books, where there’s a whole front section showing how strong a character is…only to get a face-palming section where they get themselves stuck in a position where they end up needing to be rescued anyways. She’s stubborn (in a good way really), distrusting of armed personnel, and her logic made me roll my eyes. The book started out by describing her as someone who understood what it means to be born into their hardships, an idealism that led her to work where she could make a difference. She’s an honorable woman with her heart in the right place. I did love that about her.

However, I had a “OMG girl no!” moment mid-book because she thought they [the people shooting at her] wouldn’t shoot her in the back because she was with the UN and her motive and cause was pure; that nothing would, could, happen to her because it just wasn’t allowed by international laws. I’m sitting here like, “They are evil. They have no morals! THEY DON’T CARE SASSI!” She has seen something she should not have seen, may have shared knowledge of the map with very important people already, and was returning to the area. She really thought nothing bad was going to happen to her…

I ended up really liking Sassi. She grows from a distrusting person to someone who would risk her life to honor and pay back a favor. She could have left and found safety, but even Harwood mentioned that she didn’t seem particularly wanting to go anywhere. Her life was saved by a someone, and suddenly she is ready to kick butt, to do anything to help out and pay the favor back. She mentions a couple times that she just wanted to make a difference in the world (she made me crrryy). She helps Harwood in many ways because she admires and takes note of the type of bonds and friendships that military and armed forces show, that they aren’t what she thought of them previously. I ended up enjoying and cheering her on towards the end of the book. She’s fearless and honorable when she could have left many times. A bit quick to judge, but she’s also one to acknowledge the wrongs of her own ideas of certain groups and people. She later works wonderfully with people, that in the beginning she couldn’t tolerate.

The action scenes of this book are nice and plentiful. It’s a thrilling book to read and kept me entertained, yes, but I think that the driving point of this book (IMO) wasn’t the plot or the actions scenes, or the tanks and drones, or of the fighting, but of the characters, their backgrounds, their details and history, and how they were written. I think that this was a great read and enjoyed it very much!

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