2 out of 4 stars
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When I started reading East Wind by Jack Winnick I was excited to see an intriguing female protagonist who was described as highly skilled and passionate about working as a Special Agent for the FBI. My initial thoughts were hopeful that I might potentially identify with her character. In East Wind, Lara Edmond specializes in tracking electronic terrorism traffic. To her dismay, she has been assigned a new partner, Uri Levin. He is an Israeli field worker who has been sent to the US because he is an expert on Hezbollah. Together, they face an unprecedented bomb threat against the United States. We also meet a young man named Walid who dreams of being a hero for his home country of Pakistan. Starting at a young age, he fervently supports the goals of Hezbollah to establish a radical Shia nation. To support the cause, he moves to Los Angeles to quietly wait for his call-to-action. Hossein has similar dreams and goals as Walid. Hossein secretly learns how to create a dangerous bomb while at University in Alabama. The plots of these characters all intersect in a race against time. Lara and Uri must work together to track down the terrorists and prevent a catastrophic bombing on US soil. East Wind features multiple perspectives which allowed for a nuanced take on the conflict, yet the text was limited in its ability to make me feel connected with the characters.
Jack Winnick begins East Wind with a dramatic cliffhanger in the first chapter. I was hooked and ready for an action-packed novel. Winnick has a great skill of creating intense cliffhangers. When the character of Uri is introduced at the start of the book, he is in the middle of a dangerous field mission in the Middle East. That scene was so exciting to read and made me intrigued to learn more about his character. There were some page-turning moments throughout the book which kept me up well past my normal bed time. I found myself wishing that there were more intense scenes like that at some lulls in the book because whenever we reached those dramatic scenes I became instantly engaged in the storytelling. Winnick has great pacing in his action scenes. This pacing allows readers to follow along and build up to an epic climax. At the climactic height in the book, when all the characters converge in one very dramatic confrontation, Winnick’s writing shines, and he creates an exciting and dramatic final scene.
While the action scenes were really compelling, I unfortunately struggled to relate to the characters because there was a lack of successful character development. Walid is a character who undergoes a drastic change-of-heart from the beginning to the end. He is initially set up as one of the antagonists in the story. His plot had the potential to slowly peel back his layers over the many years that he lives in the United States. I would have loved to see him struggle with his sense of identity and purpose in the world. Walid’s relationship with his wife could have lent itself to breaking down his tough exterior. His emotional changes felt like a drastic and sudden switch rather than a gradual evolution. Although he changes the most out of any of the characters, I struggled to connect emotionally with his character arc.
Lara and Uri’s relationship similarly struggled because there was a lack of characterization, and, as a reader, I didn’t “fall in love” with their relationship. Lara and Uri’s dynamic is professional in the beginning, but it soon becomes clear that there is an underlying physical attraction. They didn’t have chemistry to make me feel excited about the potential of them getting together romantically. When Uri starts to have feelings for Lara, the author writes, Uri “was getting familiar with her body a little bit at a time”. Uri came across as creepy which was not the intended reaction for the reader to have. The way that Uri looks at Lara and the way he speaks to her felt borderline predatory. As a woman reading it, I honestly was conflicted because I didn't want to root for Uri getting together with Lara. In a dinner scene, Uri asks Lara: ‘“How often do you cook?” He quickly realized the question might sound like: “How often do you have men over”’. This scene made me laugh out loud because it sounds so ridiculous; The underlying message suggested that a woman only cooks for the man she’s dating, as if a woman can't cook a meal just to eat it herself. In my opinion, Lara was overly-sexualized for the benefit of a male audience, and Uri came off as creepy rather than charming.
East Wind is a book for readers that like violence and fast-paced action. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes stories that are centered around contemporary military conflicts. Winnick takes a lot of time, especially in the early chapters, to explain Hezbollah and the conflicts in the Middle East. If you have an analytical brain then you will appreciate Lara's character, and if you like physical fighting then you will appreciate the scenes with Uri and Hossein. I decided to rate the book two out of four stars. My biggest issue was that the characters felt two dimensional, and I struggled to relate to any of them as a result. It has some great action scenes, and the ending lives up to the book’s expectations.
East Wind, 2nd edition
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