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'The Ballad of Mila' by Matteo Strukul

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Angry Robot Ltd.

The Ballad of Mila by Matteo Strukul

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I am always looking for something new to read and I revel in the unique. When I first heard about “The Ballad of Mila” by Matteo Strukul, I thought that this novel would be right up my alley and started in with a fair amount of anticipation.

Mila Zago is hellbent on revenge. Abandoned by her mother when she was a child, she later witnessed her father’s murder and was then raped repeatedly by the murderers. She went to live with her grandfather who trained her both physically and mentally to be the greatest assassin in the world. Now Mila is ready to use her training to annihilate those who killed her father and ruined her life.

There is a war waging between the Italian and the Chinese mobs for control of Venetia in northern Italy. Mila finds herself caught in the middle of the war as she seeks her revenge but does not let this deter her in the least. She makes an uneasy truce with the Italian mob and then sets out to put her mind at ease and wash away the pain of her past in a wave of her enemy’s blood.

“The Ballad of Mila” is the first in a planned series starring Mila Zago, also known as Red Dread, and I can say with certainty that I will read the next book in the series. While this novel is a violent and bloody action novel in the pulp noir tradition, Strukul’s talent shines through as he does a good job of keeping the story tight a providing just enough detail in the midst of the action to keep the novel from becoming a simple shell of a story. Mila is actually a fairly likable character in spite of her violence and her story was compelling enough to drive the novel. This is a relatively short novel and the way in which it is written makes it even shorter as the reader is thrust through the story as it transitions from one action sequence to the next.

The novel does get off to a clunky start and there really is little explanation of how Mila first gets embroiled in the action until a little later on and there are a couple other narrative issues that hold this novel back from its full potential. Since this is the first book of the series, I hope that these same issues will not be present in the next book since the backstory has been set. After all is said and done, this is an entertaining novel for anyone who is looking for an entertaining diversion in the same vein as the “Kill Bill” movies and that holds promise for more violent frolics in the future.

I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot Ltd. for this advance review copy. “The Ballad of Mila” is scheduled to be released on February 25.