Book - Emily Nation

Emily Nation

Steve Taylor-Bryant visits a post-apocalyptic Cornwall as he reads Emily Nation from Alec McQuay and Fox Spirit...


Emily Nation is the greatest assassin in a post apocalyptic world. Raised with a gun in her hand and under her adoptive father’s watchful eye, she made a name for herself as an utterly ruthless killer with a firm moral code, never taking a commission against anyone who didn’t deserve it. Armed with an assortment of bizarre weapons provided by an extremely secretive sponsor, nobody is safe once Emily has them in her sights. When a commission goes south and follows her home to her wife and daughter, everything that kept her on the straight and narrow begins to crumble, uncovering the darker, crueller side of the master assassin. With the precarious balance of her life in ruins she puts the west of England in her rear view mirror and doesn’t look back, until the faces from her past come looking for her. With her mistakes threatening everyone she used to care about, a vicious enemy growing stronger in her absence and her powerful sponsor waiting in the shadows, Emily has to drag herself out of the bottle and back to her feet, back into her armour and finish the job, whatever the cost.

The one thing I always get when I read the words of Alec McQuay is visual entertainment. His stories play out in my imagination like a film, more than most other writers', and I really enjoy transcribing his vision into scenes of my own. In fact it is so visual in its reading that it would make for a great big screen project.

His descriptive style lends easily to world building within one's mind and Emily Nation is another book that allows for a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. Set in Cornwall, you find the names of towns familiar if you have ever holidayed in the UK's beauty spot but perhaps Camborne has never been so different and Redruth is described like a scene straight out of a Mad Max film.

The characters are well formed and relatable, even main protagonist Emily, the corset wearing assassin, has moments in her life we can all cling to as things we ourselves have done, like the protection of our family life from our work life and the stresses that are involved when the two intertwine. None of the characters are filler, they all play their own part no matter how small and this, for me, is McQuay's main strength as a writer - he understands both his readership and his characters as equal parts of his creative process.

Emily Nation was described to me by a friend as a steampunk novel and there is some enough core elements of that genre to please those that like that sort of thing.  I myself am not a fan of things labelled steampunk but found that Emily Nation could also be read as more of a just brilliant adventure book. Part apocalyptic, part James Bond, part comedy, part just an author having the time of his life, McQuay has produced a terrific story with strong characters, swearing, weapons, and humour.

Superb and need more please!

Image - Amazon