“A heavily-armed counter-assault team, a convoy of tactical vehicles plus decoys, air support, a sedative more commonly used to knock out large animals, arm and leg restraints, a hood, mouthguard and a Secret Service Agent asking for a selfie.
This was not your average invitation to meet with the President.
But then Orphan X is not your average guest. The last survivor of the off-the-books programme that raised and trained him, Evan Smoak was sent around the world to do his government’s dirty work. Until he escaped.
Now once again in need of his particular skill-set, the President tracks him down and offers him a deal: kill a man she deems too dangerous or be executed himself.
Evan must decide whether to accept. He’s spent years trying to atone for his former life. But if by taking on the mission he must betray the very principles he now lives by, what is left?
One thing becomes clear to the President soon enough: no one should ever try to force Evan’s hand. Because putting Orphan X in an impossible spot only makes him more dangerous . . .”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz. The Last Orphan is the eighth book in the Orphan X Series and was published by Penguin Michael Joseph in hardcover, audio and digital formats yesterday (that’s Thursday 16th February 2023) with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Orphan but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jen at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.
I have an unwritten rule about books in a series. I don’t think I’m the only one. My rule, which I’ve learnt the hard way, is ‘don’t read books in a series out of order and ALWAYS start with the first book, not the eighth (or fourth, or twelfth…you get the picture)’. But it’s very hard to stick to the rules when the eighth book in a series you’ve always been drawn to lands on your doormat. That’s exactly what happened with The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz. I was offered the opportunity to have an early read and I’m afraid I leapt at the chance, throwing the rule book to one side as I did! There is so much love out there for the Orphan X Series and lead protagonist Evan Smoak that I was more than happy to risk starting with the eighth book in a long standing, established series. And I’m so glad I did!
However keen I was to read one of Hurwitz’s Orphan books though, I was also a little apprehensive. There’s a reason why I have my aforementioned rule. Not every book in a series works as a standalone. But this one was pretty smooth sailing from start to finish. The author tells you everything you need to know. Evan Smoak was taken from an orphanage at the tender age of 12 and trained to be a lean, mean killing machine by a covert government programme. He’s an assassin who sometimes does the government’s bidding and sometimes doesn’t. Over the course of the previous books he has amassed a small but elite support team who all excel in one field or another. Together, with Evan at the helm, they’re a pretty invincible force. When the president wants Luke Devine, a high powered business man and potential threat to her legacy eliminated, she calls on Evan. After all, there’s no one else who can carry out the task, and if he fails the president will issue Evan’s own death warrant. So it’s a win/win situation for President Donahue-Carr. It seems, however, that you cannot cage a Smoak and by trying to force his hand, the president pushes Evan to extreme measures. The only rules Evan Smoak plays by are his own.
I felt I was able to get the measure of the characters and their relationships fairly quickly and keep up with the narrative throughout. There is clearly a lot of water under the bridge here but it all made perfect sense to a new reader, which I was incredibly grateful for. Of course, there is the odd occasion when something from a previous book is mentioned or referred to but I never felt lost whilst reading. This is probably the first thriller I’ve read in a while and I loved the fast pace of the story, the ingenious ways the author manages to get Evan out of a fix, and the supporting cast of characters who all have a role to play. Evan is, of course, very masculine and adept at everything but I was pleased to see a number of strong female characters contributing to his mission. In particular, I thought Joey Morales was terrific (along with her dog, Dog). A sixteen year old hacker and IT whizz who could run technical rings around the legendary Smoak. Their friendship was a joy to watch and despite Joey being a tough, independent young woman, her more vulnerable moments really warmed my cold heart.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Orphan is a gripping, thrilling read and can definitely be read as a standalone. Saying that, I will be going back to the start of the series as, after seeing all of the love for the Orphan X Series I feel I need to know what came before, experience Evan Smoak from his *sort of* inception (I say *sort of* because I don’t think we go as far back as Evan’s arrival in the Orphan programme in book one). Great characterisation with full on action from start to finish. My heart was in my mouth at points and I could not turn the pages fast enough. What a ride! A tense, suspense-laden page turner which I couldn’t get enough of. If you love a great thriller then chances are you’ve probably already found the Orphan X Series but if you haven’t, I strongly recommend you make a point of picking it up!
I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Last Orphan. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 16th February 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |
Gregg Hurwitz is the critically acclaimed, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of 20 novels, including OUT OF THE DARK (2019). His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been published in 30 languages.
He is also a New York Times Bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Additionally, he’s written screenplays for or sold spec scripts to many of the major studios, and written, developed, and produced television for various networks. Gregg resides in Los Angeles.