All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Grace Blakely has returned to ‘Embassy Row’ in the European country of Adria. Her grandfather is the US Ambassador to the country and he’s a powerful man. Three years ago, Grace witnessed something terrible and she hasn’t quite been the same since. She’s sure her mother was murdered whereas everyone else just believes it was a terrible accident. She’s not crazy, she knows that. And now that she’s back she’s going to find her mother’s killer and make him pay for what he did.
The trouble is, Grace has no one to believe her. She’s known for her reckless behaviour and the fact that she’ll go where no one is supposed to go, creating situations that could cause an international incident and drawing all the wrong sort of attention to herself. Her friends are suspicious and if they find out the whole story, there’s no way they’ll ever trust her again. And then there’s Alexei, from the Russian embassy next door who is following her, always watching her, for reasons that Grace doesn’t understand.
Grace isn’t the only one keeping secrets. And when she finally finds out the truth, it’s going to change everything.
Ally Carter is one of those YA authors that I’ve never read although what I’ve heard about her two previous series, The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society, has all been very positive. When I got an opportunity to read this book, the first in her anticipated Embassy Row series, I jumped on it. It sounded very intriguing and the Australian cover, pictured here, is spectacular.
I have to admit, I was a little confused at first – the book opens in a pretty random place and Embassy Row really isn’t explained as properly as it should be right off the bat. Grace is returning to the US embassy in the European country of Adria where her grandfather is the ambassador. She’s been away for three years after witnessing the death of her mother in what she believes to be cold-blooded murder and what everyone else assures her was a terrible accident, caused by a fire. I think I’m supposed to assume that Adria is a country that has existed all along. It has a monarchy and also a prime minister. There is civil unrest and conflict elsewhere in the world but I have no idea where. Grace’s father is apparently off fighting, he’s a military man and she mentions that she’s been a military brat who has moved around. There’s also some business with Iran, judging by the state of its embassy in Adria but apart from that, we really have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the world.
So while there’s some weakness in the world building and some gaps that may be filled in later, there is some strength in the characters. Grace is an interesting narrator, she’s brash and a bit reckless and it’s insinuated that she’s been a bit of a troublemaker at times in the past. She’s also, for reasons that are revealed later on in the book, a bit of an unreliable narrator. She’s experienced a real trauma but I think a lot of the trauma comes from being isolated and dismissed for the last three years. She has fears and concerns that need to be validated and people are trying to protect her (and it becomes obvious why they are trying so hard to protect her) but in doing that, they cause her to feel very alone and like no one believes in her or trusts her. She’s in a very difficult situation but so are the people around her and that I think, was a very well crafted part of the story.
I enjoyed the eclectic bunch of teens from Embassy Row that befriend Grace and want to help her. If Grace had confided in them earlier and actually told them the truth and trusted them right from the beginning, the outcome may have been much different for her and she may not have managed to cause quite so many scenes. However a lot of it wasn’t Grace’s fault, but she’s one of those characters that sees danger and puts herself in its path anyway (or goes and chases it) rather than stopping to think first. I’m curious about Alexei, from the Russian embassy. Weirdly it’s placed right next to the American one so they can keep an eye on each other or something. The Cold War is alive and well in this series it would seem. Alexei is the same age as Grace’s brother, so a few years older than Grace and he’s been sworn to keep an eye on her, presumably out of loyalty and friendship to Grace’s brother – the three of them often played together as children. However it seems that Alexei has more motivation than just looking after a mate’s sister although it’s very much downplayed in the novel. The focus is entirely on Grace and her quest for the truth which was actually quite refreshing.
I feel as though this book is a bit mixed – the setting, despite picking a fake country is really interesting and could’ve been expanded upon. Instead it merely serves as a way to have Grace embarrass herself and/or her grandfather and also give her and her friends an excuse to sneak around in places they shouldn’t be because, international relations. Apparently they’re strained between everybody. Like I said there are gaps in the world building so far and plot-wise there’s a few spaces too. But I liked the characters and the way things played out so I’ll definitely read the next book and see where things go.
Book #21 of 2015