A new series of global proportions — from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.
This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who 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.
Me, when I heard that Ally Carter was publishing a new series:
Ally Carter is literally the reason I love young adult fiction. “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You” was my first foray in to the wondrous world of YA when I was in sixth — or was it fifth? — grade. I grew up with the Gallagher Girls — in more ways than one — and experienced the rush of a good heist with Kat and her crew.
It’s not about teen spies? Whaaaat?
For some reason, when I heard that Embassy Row was set in … well, embassy row, I assumed the series would be about international espionage, sabotage, stopping World War III, etc.
The plot of “All Fall Down” is still full of sneaking around and snooping where teenagers should not, but it is very much centered around Grace’s personal conflict: her inability to come to terms with her mother’s death and her desire to prove that the “accident” was anything but. It just so happens that Grace’s actions may have some nasty implications in international politics because of the fact that her grandfather is a very important U.S. ambassador.
Naturally, when Grace and her friends decide to stop the Scarred Man who killed Grace’s mother, they end up with some international-sized roadblocks thrown in their way. Side note: I don’t recommend entering the South Korean embassy through a secret passage to its basement.
The first half of the book was admittedly a bit too slow for me, but I did appreciate being able to take some time to absorb the exposition, especially the details about Grace and her mother.
Once the plot really picks up, it has a more noticeable Gallagher Girls/Heist Society feel. The last few chapters went by like a blur. My Kobo couldn’t load fast enough to keep up with me as I sped through the pages. Towards the end, the story was so fast-paced and shocking that I had to read some pages twice.
However, as great as the mystery became, the conclusion was a bit like a door in the face. I expected a cliffhanger, but the book just didn’t feel done. After pages of danger and suspense, it just cuts off. Like, oh yeah, well this is how things really are. The end. To be continued.
A diverse cast of characters — in multiple ways
There are many qualities of an Ally Carter book that stand out to me. Among the best are:
FEMINISM and GIRL POWER
teenage shenanigans and humor
internationalism (in both literal locations and smaller story elements)
“All Fall Down” can check off all three qualities with a big, red marker, and the cast of characters, alone, accomplishes that in a handful of chapter.
Grace — Grace is more brash than Cammie and less slick than Kat. Actually, she’s completely unlike either of them. She’d defensive, snarky and has severe PTSD. The experience of reading “All Fall Down” was completely different from that of any other Ally Carter series. While I enjoyed the change of voice and Grace as an unreliable narrator, she was a little too closed off in the narration, making it very difficult to get to know her.
Noah — Noah is half-Israeli, half-Brazilian and “Embassy Row personified.” He is the light in the otherwise dark and murky storyline and makes me smile with his presence alone. He’s exactly the kind of friend Grace needs, and their interactions are a delight.
“Ok,” he says. “First lesson.”
Noah broadens his stance, taking his place firmly on the embassy side of the threshold. “in the United States,” he says. Then, with both feet, he leaps on to the sidewalk. “Out of the United States.” Quickly, he jumps back toward me. “In the United States.” Another jump across the threshold. “Out of the United States. In. Out. In –“
“Is this the part where I hit you?”
Rosie — Little Rosie is a 12-year old, German former-gymnast-slash-spy-in-the-making. Out of all the characters, she’s the one that had “GALLAGHER GIRL” written all over her. She’s severely underestimated, and uses that as an advantage.
“I’m not an idiot! I’m just twelve. I’m a twelve-year-old girl and neither of those facts are my fault.”
Alexei — Grandaughter of the US ambassador and the Russian boy-next-door-slash-big-bro’s-best-friend fall in love? I’m already on board the ship! I probably shouldn’t get ahead of myself yet. There’s not actually any romance in “All Fall Down,” buuuut it’s strongly implied that romance will be coming. Alexei comes across as a bit cold in “All Fall Down,” and I can definitely see why some people would say he’s domineering, but I know there’s tons of backstory and character development ahead for him, and I’m super excited to read it.
Megan — Megan is the Indian-American daughter of the U.S. embassy’s head of security. She is definitely a spy-in-the-making with her awesome hacking skills. I like the fact that she grew up with Grace, but they always had a strained relationship, and yet she still helps Grace spy on the Scarred Man. Plus, I totally ship her with Noah.
It’s safe to say I had no idea what I was getting into when I started “All Fall Down.” Embassy Row definitely has a more serious tone than Ally Carter’s other series, but it has many of the same features I’ve come to love over the years.
The plot pacing is a little off, and the ending feels unfinished — not in the same manner as a cliffhanger — but it’s an enjoyable book. The series is rooted in ancient history and modern politics, opening boundless possibility for mystery and conspiracy.
The cast of characters is colorful and fantastic — as all of Ally Carter’s are — and I can’t wait to get to know them better, especially Grace.