“Unsanctioned Eyes” was like watching an action movie, but you know, reading. It’s got flavors that reminded me of “The Bourne Identity” but also solid military drama. Except from the “wrong” side of the aisle. Our main character, Quinn, does not work for the good guys. She is, in fact, a terrorist. She has reasons (which are kind of teased at towards the end of the novel) but the first book in the Dragonfly series is about Quinn’s character arc. The synopsis doesn’t really give a great idea of what you’re stepping into when you pick up Merritt’s book, so humor me as I try to elaborate, while staying far away from spoilers. You see “Unsanctioned Eyes” is the story of how Quinn, a top assassin working for a radical organization, finds herself in the precarious position of no longer being able to trust her handlers and the series of events that lead to that distrust. It’s how when one bad mission has her taking a hostage she wasn’t meant to keep has her questioning if the people she works for actually care about her life, and if she can continue on in the organization once she starts remembering the person she was before she became the Dragonfly.
Before I get back into the story and characters, let me talk a bit about the writing itself. I’m usually not a huge fan of spy novels, and the types of thrillers I generally gravitate towards tend to be more on the detective/murder mystery side. That being said, Merritt is able to write an action packed spy thriller where, even for the novels length, everything flowed well, felt realistic, and kept a pace that left me constantly turning the page. Even in first person! Which is 1. Hard to write in and 2. My least favorite perspective. So kudos to the author for being able to do that and write in such a way where I wasn’t shaking my head and saying “no, that’s not how that would happen”. Is it 100% realistic? No. But nothing was over the top outlandish, either. It made it so the flow in action was never interrupted by me questioning how Quinn was able to accomplish all the death defying escapes she manages in this novel, which is always a good thing.
Now, back to the story. This is one of the first books I’ve ever read where the main character is actually a bad guy. And I don’t mean like an anti-hero, though I suppose that counts. I mean there’s a very clear line of the good team and the bad team and she’s on the wrong side. Merritt doesn’t really hide that, heck, Quinn’s arc is about coming back from that dark side. But you never really get the full story of why she’s with this organization to begin with, almost like it wasn’t supposed to matter for this book. But when you’re supposed to want the MC to be redeemed, I kind of needed to know why, or what, set her on this path to start with. Given where and how “Unsanctioned Eyes” ends, I’m pretty confident all these points are going to be in the next book, but it did make it hard for me to not just connect with Quinn, but to feel some level of forgiveness given all the awful things she’s done. Sorry, Nathan, your haunting eyes weren’t enough to make me feel like your presence was enough for Quinn to see the light! The book does spend a great deal of time focusing on Quinn assassinating people for the organization she works for, as well as on the run from the various people trying to get her, but I had a hard time always rooting for Quinn to get away when I didn’t think she deserved it.
Honestly, Quinn’s questionable character arc along with how late in the book her backstory of how she became the Dragonfly started to pop up—including introducing new characters with a huge role in Quinn’s life—were the only less than stellar parts of this book. It was an incredibly fun page turner! Merritt clearly put in the work and research to write an awesome suspense thriller. There is some language and obviously there is violence and murder, but it’s not a gore fest where the author just spends way too much on the blood as a way to make something suspenseful. There is a bit of a cliffhanger, but enough was answered and taken care of in the first book to where I feel good about where things left off, and can wait for the next book (though I don’t want to)! Still, I do wish that more about Quinn was addressed so I could have liked her as a person more. She is a formidable woman in a male dominated profession and more than holds her own, something I am always all for, but she’s also not a “good” human being. Not yet, anyway, but she’s getting there! But with that in mind, I’m giving this book 4.5 stars and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series!
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