Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review: THE BALLAD OF MILA by Matteo Strukul

The Ballad of Mila

I don’t usually talk about ratings or my justification, however, for THE BALLAD OF MILA I want to make an exception. I give this 4/5 stars; the concept is pure pulp noir; a young woman is witness to her cop father’s murder and is subsequently rapped by the killers. She devotes her life to learning martial arts turning her into a living breathing weapon for the purpose of vengeance. It’s a steadily forming process that takes devotion, discipline and detachment – and author Matteo Strukul ensures Mila’s addictive and compulsive personality matches that requirement perfectly. She’s an efficient, effective, and elusive killer – an absolute assassin.

What lets THE BALLAD OF MILA down is her placement within context of the plot. We first get a glimpse of Mila at a service station; a presumably chance meeting by which she expertly eradicates two known associates of the criminal underworld. She takes off in a stolen vehicle loaded with cash, the owner of which happens to be an Italian mob boss (and also the person ultimately responsible for the heinous acts thrust upon her life previously) who doesn’t take too kindly to loosing the sum. She eventually contacts the mob boss, making a deal that will see her and his loyal band of killers take out the Triads, a 14K gang of ruthless Chinese killers moving in on the Italians turf.

There’s more to it but what THE BALLAD OF MILA boils down to is; a killer elite realising her potential and taking aim at Chinese and Italian mobsters to avenge her father’s death and save her homeland of unwanted interlopers.

Mila is a cool calculated character with enough sass and instinct to make her instantly likable. Additionally she’s someone that cries for a series of stories by virtue of her profession, particularly at novel’s end.

My main gripes are:

·         She appears for no apparent reason (though we learn later why she wants to destroy the Italian mobsters, this initial introduction lacked justification)

·         Heads of both the Chinese and Italian mobs take her into their confidence with little or no question – had they dug deeper, justified their easy acceptance, THE BALLAD OF MILA would’ve been a 5 star read.

THE BALLAD OF MILA could’ve been something special but just stopped short in my opinion. Perhaps the author wanted to hold something back for the future instalments with Mila as a hired assassin, who knows. Either way, this is a must read for modern splatter pulp fans than like their fiction sexy and gory.

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