Friday, 6 February 2015

'All Fall Down' (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First of all, I need to say a massive thank you to Orchard Books for approving my request to read and review this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

'All Fall Down' is the first book in Ally Carter's newest series, Embassy Row. You've probably already heard of Ally Carter, because she wrote the Gallagher Girls series, and the Heist Society series, both of which have been extremely well received. 
'All Fall Down' focuses on Grace, who has just moved back to the US embassy in Adria to live with her grandfather, the US ambassador. Grace has had a tough time over the last few years, because three years ago her mother died in front of her. Since then everyone has been calling her crazy, because she's been on the hunt for the Scarred Man that she saw murder her mother, even though everybody keeps telling her that it was an accident. Grace is settling in well at the embassy, reconnecting with her brother's best friend, Alexei, who lives next door, and making her own friend in the form of Noah, son of both the Israeli and Brazilian ambassadors. Grace is known for making trouble, cemented solidly when, on her first night, she sneaks onto Iranian territory, finds her way into their embassy, and overhears a conversation that includes her mothers murderer. For the last three years, everyone has been telling her that the Scarred Man doesn't exist, but when she sees him again she takes matters into her own hands, desperate to get justice for her mother. But not everything is as it first seems...
I do have to admit, I am embarrassed about this... This is the first Ally Carter book that I've ever read. The positive side of that fact is that I know a lot of people had their hopes really high for this series, because of the fact that she'd already written such popular books. When you have high hopes, sometimes you can be disappointed, but I was going into this with no prior expectations and I think that worked a lot better because I absolutely loved it. 
Grace's character is amazing, sticking to her guns and her beliefs even when it seems that everyone is against her. She's also extremely feminist, commenting multiple times on the unfairness of men treating women as lesser, getting especially offended when the prime minister sweeps her grandfather away, claiming that they need to talk about "man stuff". I have noticed that YA has become a lot more progressive over the last few years, having stronger female characters, but it always still seems to be that the male will come in and save the day, so it was really good that Grace was more than willing to fight to save herself. Similarly, there isn't an overt romance element in this novel, which was unusual but I celebrated. At a few times throughout, there is flirting going on between Grace and Alexei, but the fact that nothing more came of it, and the novel still didn't have a boring moment, was an absolute credit to Ally's writing. 
I'm not going to give too much away about the ending of the novel, but I just have to say that it is written so, so well. There are multiple times throughout when you think that you've cracked the puzzle, just for another piece to be revealed, so it really does keep you guessing. I'd recommend this book for anyone who loves YA, enjoys strong female characters and lots of adventure. If you're put off by the cover - don't be. I thought it looked rather childish and girly, but actually it's much more mature than it hints towards, so don't let it fool you. 
However, I do have to admit, there was one negative about this book: the lack of chapters. I don't know if it's a trait that is common in Ally Carter's writing, because if it is it might take me a little while to motivate myself to pick up the Gallagher Girls series. The book was really great, but because there were no chapter breaks, at times it just jumped really awkwardly from scene to scene, and it took me a while to readjust to the fact that we were in a different time space with different characters. This might be different in the print edition - there might be better markings of when there is a jump - but on the Kindle edition that I received from NetGalley this was a definite negative. 

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