Persona by Genevieve Valentine (Saga Press, March 10, 2015)-For 5 years Suyana Sapaki has been the Face of the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation (UARC) which is part of the International Assembly, a stable of diplomats from around the world. They are carefully groomed for years and rigorously controlled (it will, at times, remind you of a Miss America pageant), but it seems as if, now, someone is out to get Suyana. Daniel Park is stationed outside of the hotel in which Suyana is supposed to meet her beau Ethan, when she’s shot twice during an assassination attempt. Daniel intervenes, even though his job is just to take pictures, to get the story. During his time with Suyana he’ll get a story, all right, but it isn’t what he thinks, and he’ll begin to question everything he stands for. Suyana seems to have allies in the strangest places, namely in an eco-terrorist group that specializes in destruction without human casualty, and Suyana thinks these are her only allies, but in this she’d be wrong.
Persona takes place in a near future that hints a bit at the world order (there’s a mention of Free Korea), and we know that ecological resources are waning, provoking into action groups like the one Suyana has allied herself with, but Persona is really about Suyana. She finds, during her very close brush with death, a strength she never knew existed, and her disgust with the system gives way to the realization that she does have a voice, and that maybe the way to wield that voice is to do so within. Paris is the setting, and one can’t help but think of a spy novel set within its labyrinthine streets while reading, as Suyana, with Daniel’s help, tries to find out who is really out to get her, and of course, stay alive. Suyana is a heroine who isn’t just running for her life, she’s finding herself, and that inner strength begins to dictate her every move. This is an unusual thriller, with the thrill of the chase propelling the narrative, but the line between who’s chasing who might become blurred. Those that seek to bring Suyana down better watch out. This book is great fun, and thoughtful at the same time (themes of identity and loyalty are certainly explored.) It also marks Genevieve Valentine as a very versatile author. She can do spycraft with the best of them, and I can’t help but hope we’ll see more of Suyana in the future.