War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey | Review

I don’t do a lot of book reviews on here, but this was one of my favorite books of the year. And I’m not saying that because Schuyler is a good friend (although she is). This is probably one of my top ten books this entire year.

First, the cover and description from Goodreads.

wol cover small

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his medical practice in America. But success means his first chance at winning the respect of the father he’s never met. And when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham’s British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his a new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after an encounter with death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn’t as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

Review

What makes this book so amazing is the characters. You can tell just from the first few pages that Schuyler has put an incredible amount of thought and energy into their development. From Ben, the principled American doctor-turned-spy, to Jaeryn the mysterious Irishman, to sweet, strong-willed Charlotte these characters live and breathe on the page, defying all kinds of stereotypes. Even very minor characters are given a life and personality. More than anything else, the characters were what kept me turning pages (virtually. Not real pages. I was reading an ebook).

The plot was complex and very unpredictable. It actually got a little confusing toward the end; that may just have been because I was reading too fast, though. It seems like every character has their own agenda and their own secrets. The tension and the stakes just kept getting higher as I kept reading.

What I loved about this book is that it dealt with very real issues in a very honest way, without sacrificing either a high view of right and wrong or the integrity of the story. Evil isn’t accepted or normalized, but neither are  trite answers or unrealistic plot devices used to deal with it. It’s a real, gritty, honest look at evil, honor, and integrity, and I appreciated how Schuyler dealt with those themes.

If you’re looking for a good, solid read to keep you company over Christmas break, I highly recommend this book!

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