5 Star IHIBRP Book Review: “Operation Child Soldier” by Jaci Wheeler
This Tale Not Only Grabs Your Attention, It Holds You For Ransom!
5 Stars … Six Stars … Seven Stars … And more! Author Jaci Wheeler spins a complex tale of innocent children—children who have suffered horrific child abuse, parental loss, and/or extreme neglect—being captured, raised, and trained as spies, killers, and agents for a clandestine military black-ops agency that exists far outside the realm of the law. Fans of the popular TV series La Femme Nikita (1997-2001) will recognize a similarity in the operational setup and training guidelines of Wheeler’s unnamed agency with Nikita’s “Section One”, but the trainees here are all minors, ruthlessly brought up to follow the agency’s demands to spy, torture, and/or kill their targets on demand and as ordered.
Wheeler’s agency consists of a Chief of Operations, of sort, by the name of Edward who conceptualized and instituted this system of manufacturing child soldiers. Edward is fully dedicated to making his pet project work, and he will do anything to ensure its success, even if it means torturing his own flesh and blood—sort of—his daughter Aria, who has, from birth, been the property of the agency. Behind the scenes, Edward reports to a man-in the-shadows, referred to only as “Senator”, who—we suspect—expects to use the agency for his own personal and political gain. Under Edward, the agency is fully dedicated to putting out the best of the best—juvenile killing machines who have no need for moral judgment or ethics and who follow orders without question. Wheeler constructs her agency after pyramid of power, with Edward acting as its head, followed by a staff of well-seasoned, emotionally unavailable instructors who have been hand-picked by the man himself, and mentors—former trainees who have passed the litmus test and graduated to their positions as full-time team members … spies, agents, and assassins. It seems like a perfect plan, but there’s a hitch—these juveniles have a lot of emotional baggage and not all are completely helpless against the power of suggestion. Enter Aria, a child conceived to succeed—raised from birth as Edward’s daughter to be the perfect weapon … an agent that eats, breathes, and kills for the agency … But, not without question.
Wheeler’s character development shines through in the characters she has created for “Operation Child Soldier”, and no one comes through louder than Aria. Wheeler is spot-on in developing her personality and explaining her motives. Growing up under Edward’s constant attention and seeing his blinding fervor for his cause, Aria is—as expected—an anti-establishment, strong-willed, morally incorruptible, fiercely independent wild-child just itching to leave the roost, stretch her wings, and test her boundaries … And what Aria wants, Aria gets. Unlike the other trainees, Aria knows Edward’s faults, and where the other trainees would do anything—up to and including hurting themselves just to please the agency director, she goes out of her way to cross her father at every turn, earning her own reputation among her peers, gaining their respect, and full-allegiance. But, things take a startling turn when Aria discovers one secret about Edward she never knew, and all hell breaks loose as she plots her escape and plans to disappear forever. What secret could compel her to leave the only life she has ever known? Will she make it, or will she be dragged back to the agency to deal with the consequences of her actions?
From the start of this novel, it’s obvious that the author has put a great deal of thought and planning into developing this impeccably dramatic plot line. She provides the reader with a rich tapestry of characters with whom they can identify—characters who have their own complex back-stories and psychological motivations as to how they’ve learned to deal with success and failure under the direction of the agency. It’s this character insight that makes this tale so compelling. This pulse-pounding, psychological thriller takes the reader on a fast-paced series of what seems like very personal highs and lows, and back and forth’s that would under the best of circumstances result in whiplash had the author not taken the opportunity to insert a few necessary pauses to allow her characters—and perhaps her readers—some much-needed time for self-reflection and soul-searching before returning to the regimented lives to which they are accustomed.
"Operation Child Soldier” is a riveting nail-biter that will have you glued to your seat from beginning to end. I highly recommend Wheeler’s novel for anyone who loves sci-fi, spy-thrillers, espionage, dystopian, or mystery novels. And after devouring this entire novel in just one sitting, I pray Wheeler wrangles Aria into having at least one more go at Edward and the agency.
Find “Operation Child Soldier” on Amazon and Kindle athttps://www.amazon.com/Operation-Child-Soldier-Academy-Book-ebook/dp/B06XXL53Q4
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