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Yasmin Angoe

Author of Her Name is Knight

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This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
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WHAT'S HER NAME IS KNIGHT ABOUT?
I'm struggling here (and have been for a week or so) to come up with something succinct and yet descriptive. So I'm going to cop out, and borrow the description from the author's website, because I want to get this posted (if only so I can get this book back to the library). I don't know if I'd have said everything the third paragraph does myself—feel free to skip the first sentence of it—but I figure if Angoe is willing to say it, it can't be that spoilery.

Stolen from her Ghanaian village as a child, Nena Knight has plenty of motives to kill. Now an elite assassin for a powerful business syndicate called the Tribe, she gets plenty of chances.

But while on assignment in Miami, Nena ends up saving a life, not taking one. She emerges from the experience a changed woman, finally hopeful for a life beyond rage and revenge. Tasked with killing a man she’s come to respect, Nena struggles to reconcile her loyalty to the Tribe with her new purpose.

Meanwhile, she learns a new Tribe council member is the same man who razed her village, murdered her family, and sold her into captivity. Nena can’t resist the temptation of vengeance―and she doesn’t want to. Before she can reclaim her life, she must leverage everything she was and everything she is to take him down and end the cycle of bloodshed for good.

THE DUAL TIMELINES
So it turns out that this novel is told in two timelines. There's the "After," describing the present time (everything that the description above talks about), and the "Before"—the things that happen between her village was attacked and her being brought into the Tribe. This had all the makings of a problem for me.

This feels like it's a confession—maybe it is—books with two timelines making up the plot aren't for me. I'm not talking about flashbacks, or anything like that. Or a big time-jump somewhere along the line. But where you have Story A taking place in one time and Story B taking place some in some other time and you have to follow each of them along for the entirety (or just about) of the novel until one timeline takes over or they merge. I'm not saying I don't read them, or that I don't enjoy those books. But they're really not my thing—if for no other reason than I almost always only care about one of the timelines. Which one I care about might change while I read, but when we switch from A to B, I almost always begrudge it because I just don't care about B and just want to get back to A.

This is particularly true when we're dealing with the past of a character (as we are here). If I can't guess or assume pretty much the major events in a protagonist's childhood from what I know of them in the present, then the author either failed in their depiction of the present or is deliberately withholding something (which usually backfires in these situations).

That's absolutely the case here with Nena Knight. You knew the bulk of what was happening in the "Before" timeline—it's her origin story and in the "After" story we're told about some of these events/people prior to them coming up in that timeline, or we get allusions that are clear enough that we can assume the rough outline.

However.

Angoe pulls it off—both timelines are gripping throughout (okay, it took a little bit—maybe a chapter or two—for me to get into the "Before" just because I assumed Angoe would have the problems that 90% of writers have with this setup). I did resent jumping from "After" to "Before," because I wanted to know what happened next, but I was also glad to get back to the "Before," because I was on tenterhooks about it after the last jump. When that chapter ended, I didn't want to leave that timeline, but I had to know what was going on in "After." It was a vicious cycle. A delicious one, too.

Don't ask me how Angoe succeeded where so many falter. Skill? Magic? Both? Sure, why not?

Also? The two different voices for the timelines are an excellent choice. Angoe describes her approach:

During her childhood her story is in first person present tense so that you see the world and her journey through her eyes. As an adult, her story is in third person past tense to give you a panoramic view and scope of what this kick-ass assassin can do.

This works so well—I was a little skeptical going in, but she made a believer out of me quickly.

Now, if Angoe tries this again in the next book, will it be as effective? It beats me. I'm leaning toward no, because so few can repeat the same trick. But I'm prepared for her to prove me wrong.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT HER NAME IS KNIGHT?
There are so many elements here that we've seen dozens of times before—Nikita, Black Widow, Hanna, Villanelle, etc.—young female with a traumatic past, raised by people other than her parents, trained to be a spy/assassin/etc., starts to wonder if/discovers that she's been lied to by her handlers, and makes some connections outside of her organization that feeds their desire to get out/question. Now, there's a reason we've seen these things so often—they're reliable, there's something about them that people enjoy. Angoe does something new and different (even if only a little) with these tried and true elements so that they feel fresh and inventive.

I've said it before—and I'll say it again, and keep saying it—I don't care if you're telling me a story I know (unless it's book four in a series and you're telling the same story each time), as long as you tell it in an entertaining way. This is what Yasmin Angoe has done here.

There's a strong—very strong—chance for Nena Knight to become my favorite kick-ass female in the near future. Lily Wong, Charlie Fox, Vanessa Michael Munroe—you're on notice. There's something very compelling about her, her values, and how she's living them out. Her ass-kicking abilities are pretty compelling, too. (I'm not really a fan of that phrase, but after quoting Angoe earlier, I can't think of another way to put it)

The supporting characters—I'm not sure how many of them will reappear in the series, so I'm going to hold off talking about them in any kind of detail—are just as well done. I could take a lot more focus on any one of them in a future book and have a blast with it. The Tribe, too, is a fascinating take on a shadowy international cabal employing our assassin-protagonist. I'm hoping to see a lot more about how and why they work in the books to come. There, too, I'm not sure how much to say. I have to see the future installments.

I'd better wrap things up because I feel like I'm spinning my wheels here—this is a killer introduction to a series. It's so satisfying and so tantalizing at the same time—I need to know what happens to Nena next. How is she changed, and what's stayed the same for her (that might be more interesting—what is she holding on to, or what's so much part of her that she can't shake it)? If you're looking for your next thriller, you'd do well to make it this one.
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hcnewton | 4 other reviews | Dec 29, 2022 |
I believe this was an Amazon First Reads pick. While most of us don't have such an obvious divide between our "personnas" most of us do have multiple roles in life and sometimes they do conflict, so in that sense, this book could be about any of us.

Nena Knight is a survivor. As a child, in Ghana, she witnessed atrocities that wiped out her family and village. Then, she was sold to a human tormentor. Then, she made her way on the streets until Delphine Knight found her, saw something in her, and adopted her into her family as a second daughter. Delphine's husband, Noble, had Nena trained in such ways that when the men who committed the atrocities against her biological family resurface, Nena has ways to deal with it permanently.

At the same time, Nena is dealing with being attracted to a man she's been ordered to eliminate--the first time she's felt such attraction in her life. And she unwittingly draws both him and his teen daughter into her problems.

The romantic attraction is left unsolved--though I suspect they will eventually end up together. There's also a pregnancy--which makes me wonder if the nurturing environment of the Knights will overcome the nature of the baby's father's side of the family.
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JenniferRobb | 4 other reviews | May 29, 2022 |
The writing felt very sterile and technical. I didn't connect much to Nena's narrative though there was always something interesting or horrifying going on.

The story is told through dual timelines, before Nena became a killer and after. In the before, it's through first pov, so we witness her trauma through her own words. The after is through third person pov, so there's more distance between us and Nena.

The world isn't kind to women, so there is abuse upon abuse heaped upon the page. A shining example is when a brother, under gun point, is asked to rape his sister. Not for the weak of heart.

There's really nothing enjoyable about this story, and I didn't feel a sense of satisfaction when Nena hardened into a killer after all the intense trauma. The before is more engaging than the after, but it's of course hard to read. I think my lack of enjoyment stems from lack of characterization. I kept being "told" things, but I didn't see it.

On that same note, I wish Nena had more bonding time with Cortland. They barely said a few words to each other, but this is the catalyst that encouraged her doubt in the Tribe? A single dad who blinked twice? They needed way more scenes together. Not gonna lie Keigel and Nena had way more chemistry. I thought Nena and Georgia's connection was handled better.
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DestDest | 4 other reviews | Apr 21, 2022 |
Got this for free from Prime Reads. I enjoy bubble-gum action, and hoped this would be a breezy read. It started out rough with sentences like "Only contempt that grows like a snowball as they throw him in with the crowd of waiting villagers."

But, hey, it's pulp.

The characters were mah, the set up seemed to be what if Cheikh Anta Diop had some secret underground shadow government with a private army (who knows, maybe he did) and adopted a terrorized and traumatized girl to turn her into the ultimate assassins, what would that be like?

The main character tries to present as stoic and disciplined all the time while not being very stoic and disciplined throughout the book. The sections of how she becomes traumatized were very difficult to read.

The end scenes were so silly pretty much dropped it down to the "it was ok" for me. I wouldn't recommend.
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FrankFurters | 4 other reviews | Mar 28, 2022 |

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