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The Ballad of Mila, review by Solveig Dittrich

The Ballad of Mila, woman power at its finest.

Title: The Ballad of MilaThe Ballad of Mila
Author: Matteo Strukul
Publisher: EXHIBIT A (Angry Robot)
Pages: 320
Price: 7.99$/4.83£ (Mass Market Paperback)

Whereas for many people Italy means Pizza, Pasta and Mafia – for Strukul it’s Mila, Mafia and Triad!

Pagnan, the local mafia boss: no one gets past him. But he loses control over one of his own men, and that throws him and the remaining bad guys from the frying pan into the fire.

Guo, the wise Chinese, is trying to seize the power over north-east Italy and Pagnan seems to be the last obstacle on his path to succeed with this plan.

Mila is woman power at its finest – well trained, self-disciplined, smart… and underestimated until it’s too late. The bigger picture grows with each character – never think you’re in control, there is always a bigger fish.

Strukul succeeds brilliantly to unwind a fast paced story of revenge, intrigue and pure power. He has researched all the topics in depth, not only mafia but also Chinese Triads and Chinese traditions. His eye for details is fascinating and makes the story even more appealing to the reader than it already is.

The point of view changes very frequently, allowing the reading to inhale the situation the various characters are in. It’s brilliant how light-footed Strukul is in switching the perspective, no matter if you are one of the bosses or Zou Kai stuck in Pagnan’s bullet-proof car.

You think it’s action only? Think twice: Strukul also pleases the reader with humour throughout the book and sometimes with real good sarcasm: or how else can you describe the scene featuring the dog and the Chinese bad guy?

In flash-backs, the reader learns about Mila’s motivation to do what she raised herself for. It’s a bitter and cruel story, but there must be a reason why she’s such a badass. But revenge only would be too simple for Strukul. He clearly has more in mind and sets Mila out on a path which is beyond the imagination of an ordinary mind.

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