Always Bet on Orphan X
With the cliffhanger we were left with at the end of the previous Orphan X novel, I’m a little surprised I didn’t pick up Dark Horse as soon as I got it in February. It was mostly a matter of scheduling. It took a little more effort to get into this book than I expected, but in the end, I’m glad I stuck with it.
If you aren’t familiar with this series, it is certainly darker than my normal reading material. It features Evan Smoak, also known as Orphan X, a former government assassin who took himself out of the game and now freelances, helping those who have nowhere else to turn.
However, his latest client is giving him pause. Evan prefers to help the innocent who have gotten in over their heads. The call he’s taken is from Aragon Urrea, the kingpin of a major drug operation in South Texas. Evan initially hangs up on Aragon, but decides to help him because of his request. Aragon’s daughter was kidnapped from her eighteenth birthday party by a rival drug cartel, and Aragon needs someone to get her back without starting a drug war.
It isn’t long before Evan realizes just how bad the rival gang is. But can he find a way to fulfill his mission without compromising who he is trying to become?
The book jumps in to some of the action, setting up the main story of this book before flashing back to reveal what happened with the almost literal cliffhanger we were left with at the end of the previous book. Don’t worry when you first pick it up, the answers are coming.
Having said that, the book still took longer than normal to draw me in. Part of that is because, like Evan, I had a hard time with who his client was. It took a while for me to fully embrace Evan helping Aragon. The early chapters are a bit slow, but part of that is setting up how complex Aragon is as a character.
We also spend part of the early chapters seeing just how evil the rival cartel is. Trust me, they are nasty. While I know these books are more violent than my typical choices, I still could have done without some of the detail we got here. Naturally, the book does also have more sex and language than I usually would read, but they weren’t as excessive for me.
But as I got into the second half, I got fully invested in this book. The stakes were raised enough, and I cared enough, to start reading as quickly as possible. There are some creative action sequences, and the ending is action packed bonkers, which is what you’d expect from this series.
Then there’s Evan. What makes this series so good is watching Evan struggle with who he was trained to be versus who he wants to be. That’s on full display here again, and I loved it. Yes, there is some growth thanks to a couple of sub-plots taking place closer to home.
While this book doesn’t end with quite the same type of cliffhanger the previous book had, there are still a couple of threads things left open as the setup for the next book. Is it here yet?
Ultimately, I’m glad I stuck with Dark Horse because I was rewarded.
Missing some of Evan’s story? Check out the rest of the Orphan X books.