‘He was the first boy I ever kissed. And in the deepest, darkest part of me I have to wonder if that’s what killed him.’
If you haven’t read the first book in the Embassy Row series, ‘All Fall Down’, what have you been doing for the last year?! GO AND READ IT. If you need more convincing, you can see my spoiler free review of that first novel here. This review will contain spoilers for the first and second books in the series.
At the end of ‘All Fall Down’, Grace’s life had been turned on its head. She’d been trying to find the Scarred Man, her mother’s murderer, and in her search to find him discovered the truth: she shot her mother, in a terrible misunderstanding three years before.
After nearly being killed by the prime minister of Adria, Grace is on another a mission. Her grandfather’s chief-of-staff, Ms Chancellor, shot the prime minister to save her life, and when Ms Chancellor isn’t instantly arrested Grace is very suspicious. Ms Chancellor lets Grace in on a secret: there’s a secret Society that has been running Adria since the country was founded, run exclusively by women, and they pull the strings behind every government decision. Because Grace is the granddaughter of the US ambassador she’s now a part of the Society, being entrusted with their deepest secrets and the secret history of Adria.
Alexei’s gone back to Russia, and Grace isn’t allowed to confide in Noah, Megan or Rosie: other than Noah’s twin, Lila, no one else knows about the Society, and due to the secretive nature it needs to stay that way. Jamie, Grace’s brother, returns from his military service to help look after her, bringing his friend Spence with him, and Spence is the only person Grace feels she can trust because he’s the only person who doesn’t know the girl she used to be. She goes to a party with him and kisses him – her very first kiss – and then Alexei appears out of nowhere and decides to defend her honour by brawling with him on the beach.
So Alexei is the main suspect when Spence turns up dead the next day.
Whereas the first book definitely incorporated more espionage, with constant spying and sneaking, ‘See How They Run’ is much more of a murder mystery. Spence’s death is instantly blamed on Alexei, but Grace knows for a fact that he couldn’t have killed anyone, so she spends the entirety of the novel trying to find his mother and attempting to uncover the government conspiracy that’s allowing Alexei to be framed. I really appreciated this departure from the first novel, because it felt so different but the world and the characters were still very vibrant and immersive: it was different, but the development made a lot of sense.
Another development that worked brilliantly was the shift in Grace’s character. She’s still very strong and independent, but because of the revelation about her mother she’s finally showing more of her vulnerability, which makes her a lot more human. She’s still struggling with panic attacks and PTSD, made worse with the constant flashbacks of her mother before her death, but the flashbacks aren’t irritating – they make sense in the plot, and they’re so beautifully intertwined that the transition from the current developments into the past is absolutely seamless.
The only real complaint I have with this book is the fact that there are no chapter breaks. I still don’t know if that’s only a problem with edition I received, but it does make it a bit difficult when the scene completely changes in the space of a sentence, but the characters stay the same and you need to take a moment to readjust. I’ll have to have a look at the finished copy to know if this is a continuing problem, but it’s something that takes a while to get your head around.
I mean, yes, there were a couple of other things that I didn’t enjoy. The almost love triangle between Grace, Spence and Alexei was needless, but I’m glad it was nipped in the bud so quickly – if it had been an ongoing plot it definitely wouldn’t have appealed to me. I did appreciate the relationship between Grace and Alexei, though – it looked as though it was going to happen in the first novel, but it didn’t, which means the feelings between them were well crafted and were already believable and authentic: it was a natural next step for them to take. I did wish there’d been more scenes of Grace interacting with Noah, Megan and Rosie, because their friendship in the first book was very immersive and they were hardly ever separated, but I can see why that was put on the back burner during this book. However, getting more interactions between Grace and Jamie was something I really loved – the tension between them is palpable and the dialogue between them is so brilliantly written that pages fly by in moments, so I’m glad we saw more of their relationship.
I still adore Ally Carter’s writing style. It’s been so easy to fall in love with Grace again and to really care about the continuation of her story. The attention to detail regarding the founding of Adria and the history behind the country made the story feel much more realistic – it’s always difficult when a story is set on Earth but in a fabricated country, so getting more information definitely brought the place to light.
When I found out there was going to be a third Embassy Row novel I was very excited. This novel ends on such a cliffhanger: Jamie gets stabbed and his life is in the balance, and while he’s being treated Grace finds out she’s the long lost princess of Adria. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the next installment, because the government conspiracy and the ‘big bad’ behind Spence’s death still hasn’t officially been revealed, but it’s definitely holding my attention.
If you haven’t read an Ally Carter novel yet, what are you doing with your life?! I’d sincerely suggest you hurry up and catch up with this series before the third installment is released, because you’re missing something very special and fun.