Publisher: Orchard Books
Length: 320 pages
Source: ARC from work
Grace can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.
Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay - in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.
So I have to admit that this is my first Ally Carter book, and I'm glad to say that it is because I did thoroughly enjoy it. I never really saw the interest in her Heist Society series or Gallagher Girls, probably because it was aimed at more of a female audience? I don't know but it was never really a set of books that I was eager to pick up. However this review is not about those series, but Ally Carter's new series Embassy Row, so lets dive straight in with her first installation: All Fall Down!
- First off can I just say that the title 'All Fall Down' just reminds me of that nursery rhyme. You know the one I'm taking about, 'ring a ring o roses' I believe it's called? The one that ends in 'a-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down.' Not that this has any real impact on the story, it just made me chuckle so thought I would include it.
- Second point - I read this on a train journey between Newcastle - London and it took me roughly 5 hours to read. Some of the details may be slightly hesitant because I forgot my notebook (stupid I know!) and I did have a few days between sittings. However from what I can remember I will document below.
- Grace lives on Embassy Row, a street filled with embassy's for all of the different countries in the world. This is quite apparent from the very first line in the book, "When I was twelve I broke my leg jumping off of the wall between Canada and Germany." To any normal person reading that line the usual response would be 'eh?' but when put into the context of having a street filled with countries embassy's, yeah that kind of makes sense. It was definitely an inventive idea, kind of reminds me of Disney's Epcot shoved all onto one street and it was a very vivid image for me and really easy to picture, so well done Ally Carter, great scenic writing.
- So what about the story arc? This book was pitched as a kind of a contemporary/ mystery/ thriller and I am inclined to agree with that. Right from the beginning of the story you learn of Grace's backstory and the tragic events that happened in her past three years ago. Grace's mother was killed, or was she murdered? This is the arc that sets up the story and weaves it's way throughout the pages, all the way to the very end. As a main story I thought that it was extremely enjoyable - there were enough twists and turns in the story to continuously keep me guessing as to whether Grace herself was indeed crazy and who was the murderer, if there ever was one at all? In terms of comparison of this feature I found myself comparing it to the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). That constant air of mystery that made me switch my suspicions as the novel went along. The story focuses so much on the mystery and Grace’s growing paranoia of what’s real and what isn’t, that the story doesn’t stray from what matters and what is actually on the protagonist’s mind at all and I really think Ally Carter did a fantastic job in finding a balance between these features because as the narrative is told from Grace's point of view, it's necessary to show the unsettledness of her mind.
- Switching over to characters then, All Fall Down had a vast array of characters of which I enjoyed for very different reasons. Grace I loved for the fact that she was very unpredictable and frankly very untrustworthy as a narrator. I think this made Grace a very empathetic character and hey if it was Ally Carter's intention to make her protagonist both empathetic and untrustworthy then she succeeded very well. Noah for me was what seemed at first to be pitched as the love interest in this novel although very quickly deemed as 'the best friend', but when I soon realised that there wasn't a necessary love interest he very quickly became my favourite in the story. He was witty, charming yet wasn't afraid to show his emotions, something which I feel some male characters I read these days seem to lack - they're always lacking that empathic side to them which I feel makes them more realistic. Lila, the stereotypical popular chick who doesn't like anyone who doesn't fit into her 'status' and automatically takes charge, or so she thinks. Alexei, the russian next door neighbour who is always there for Grace without her even realising it. I really liked Alexei's character, he was kind of a timid in the background character at the beginning but towards the end there was a scene in the book where he really shone through for me and made him a lot more realistic for me, there is always a friend like Alexei in your life, just some of us don't often see them there. Megan was our wonderful little jolt of energy to the story and I never found myself not smiling whenever I read a scene with her in - she was quite literally the adrenaline of the group. I could go onto further characters such as the grandfather, the mysterious scarred man and Ms Chancellor but I feel that they weren't as developed as I would have liked, so can't go into great detail with them.
- The pacing of this novel for me was just okay I am afraid to say. I much preferred the first half of the book to the second (whether this was due down to not reading it in one sitting I don't know) but there were definitely scenes in the first 100 or so pages that I thought were fantastic - the meeting of the group and chasing the scarf into Iran for example, I thought these scenes were really fleshed out. The other half of the book for me was just kind of a tad repetitive in terms of pace.
Overall I believe that I will continue on with this series, although the ending did feel that it was forcing your curiosity into the second installation thanks to the open ended cliffhanger. In terms of recommendations I would definitely suggest this to everyone who wants just that bit of a mystery that is that little bit different from usual. I award All Fall Down by Ally Carter a 3 stars.