Escapism has many forms, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this next one. With the privilege of a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), I thoroughly enjoyed the book, Power Play, by Cheri Baker. Swiping the e-pages as fast as my little brain could absorb the words, I hit 100% in just over a few days. And what follows is my 99.9% spoiler-free review. I paused my video game for this.
This second book in the Emerald City Spies trilogy, Power Play, is cold yet sparkling spy-craft. It takes the groundwork laid in book one and builds a solidly written plot driven story.
It’s set in a drizzly cut-throat Seattle business scene. In this noir-ish book, the ambitious assistant, Jessica Warne, sees more of the truth about her prestigious yet ruthless job, a truth that hurts more than she could imagine.
Yes, there are surprises and secrets!
Her employer, The Duke Agency, promised the world, yet her world begins to close in. Will Jessica grow, will she even survive, in the shadow of a shady business? Are the rewards worth the costs?
Relationships are strained, bent, or in extreme cases broken. Familiar people from book one are here: Taylor, Andy, Cody, Carma, Lisa, Dana to name a few. There are new victims or victors too, like Wyatt and Priya.
Jessica, a.k.a Dollface, wrestles with lies versus discretion, subterfuge or subversion, and industrial or corporate espionage. Besides utilizing cool surveillance technology, Jess plays on emotions and hones her manipulative technique. But she also gets played and manipulated herself.
The city of Seattle does not play fair.
Emerald City Spies book one, The Assistant, was filled with tension, which never felt properly or fully released. Book two, Power Play, has tension, but there’s more stress and duress too. It feels like book one’s tense set-up is expressing itself in book two with higher stakes and greater risks.
If The Assistant was a yellow light of caution, Power Play is a red light of danger.
One of my first thoughts early on: you must read book one, The Assistant, to fully understand and really appreciate what Baker has written in book two, Power Play. Jessica and the supporting characters make more sense and have more meaningful impact; I can’t imagine liking Power Play as much as I did had I not first read The Assistant.
Also, there’s a pivotal plot point in book one that plays heavily into Power Play.
What I like about Power Play is Jessica Warne’s character because she shows much more strength. Her will and resolve feel more deeply settled. She’s not only ambitious but also resilient.
My eyes widened when I saw Jessica make a dramatic decision late in the story. You feel for her and more! It’s a raw, gripping scene, visceral in the way you see the emotional manifest in the physical.
Cody’s character has grown too. Before, he felt like mere tech and moral support. But his role now has more heart as he protects Jessica.
Power Play is a well written book on its own, better than the first. If you read only one of the two books, I would recommend it over The Assistant. The pacing and plotting feel much better this time. The writing feels tighter, not wasting words.
It’s written in the third-person, with many short chapters you can snack on during a break. They’re like chips; it’s easy to say, “Just one more!” With a clear schedule, you could comfortably read the book over a weekend. (For ambiance, this story may best be read on a rainy day with a cup of coffee.)
Power Play is more mature than The Assistant, which made it more enjoyable to me. If it was a movie, book two would be rated stricter than book one. So maybe PG-13 over PG.
Throughout, the dialogue is clear, punchy at times, and believable. The story has good action scenes too. More than once, I was hooked to see how Jessica would pull off some tricky maneuvers.
There are memorable scenes, like the office party and the house party. They offer more interpersonal tension compared to Jessica’s solo spy scenes in an empty building. In all cases, the look and feel of the environment is described well enough so you are fully immersed. That good writing makes good escapism.
The book isn’t 5-stars to me because two chapters on familial connection and scheming felt boring or necessary. And the ending of the story lacks full closure and denouement because – cliffhanger! But that’s the nature of a trilogy, so it’s expected.
But yeah, I am for sure gonna grab book three when it’s available.
Thanks for reading my review; now go read Power Play!
Book release date: September 10, 2020.
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