Rise of Gorgon by Tanai Walker

Rise of the Gorgon by Tanai Walker is a fast-paced suspense about two women who uncover two different truths: one uncovers a terrifying conspiracy, and the other (the Gorgon) discovers free will.

Elle Pharell is a reporter who’s made a name for herself as a journalist. When her friend Rob Loera, an Army Veteran, commits suicide in front of her, she’s thrust into a nightmare. Others point to his severe PTSD and declining mental health but she senses something more. She believes it has something to do with a private security firm where Rob worked after serving in the Army. Elle is told to drop it, but she won’t let it rest; she must vindicate her friend. She travels to Kuwait City in search of answers. With the help of a small team who know the physical and political landscape, she uncovers far more than she bargained for.

Cassandra Hunt is a skilled assassin acting undercover as a private interpreter. She’s been sent to interfere with Elle’s investigation and ensuring Elle doesn’t find answers. And if Elle gets too close, Cassandra’s orders are to kill her and everyone involved.

Nothing could have prepared Elle or her team for what they will discover. A once flourishing village of nomads is now a ghost town. A mostly empty village left in disarray, animals left for dead, strange symbols painted in black paint on building walls. When they meet a man wandering alone they learn of an underground lab where human experiments took place, drones, and the testing of biochemicals which, according to the stranger, turns people to turn into violent zombies. “Their bodies were robbed of their souls,” The man says.

Through a series of high action moments Elle and Cassandra find themselves having to make tough choices.

The story doesn’t end in this book. It leaves the reader hanging and it’s apparent that there is more to the story. I hope that the author will craft a part two.

The Characters

Elle Pharrel is a journalist. An ambitious woman who relies on instinct to do her job but doesn’t exercise the soundest judgment at times. Though I don’t entirely blame her for her decisions because she spends a good part of the book on the run and uncovering mind-blowing truths at every turn. To complicate, soon after they are intimate, she discovers that Cassandra is an assassin which would cause the strongest woman to lose sight of all reason.

Cassandra Hunt is the Gorgon a mindless killer trained to do a job then programmed to forget. The company that created her is not unaware that her memory hasn’t been entirely been wiped clean after each job. Cassandra’s remembered bits and pieces, fragments of memories that she can’t place and doesn’t try to. She’s a good assassin, doesn’t question, and does what she’s told, including pleasuring her handler and protector, Thora at her every whim.

While the story opens with Elle and is Elle’s pursuit of the truth, the story is more about Cassandra and her growth, hence the title, Rise of the Gorgon. Cassandra’s growth begins with a deep connection to Elle. Even though she’s trained to kill her, she defies orders and protects Elle at all costs.

(In case you didn’t know, the Gorgon is a reference to a mythical creature from Greek mythology, three sisters, probably the most popular is Medusa, who has hair made of snakes and can petrify people into stone with a single stare – frightening!)

The Writing Style

The story moves along rather quickly. Almost immediately upon landing in Kuwait City, Elle and her team find their first clue which thrusts them into immediate danger where bullets start flying and don’t stop until the last page.

The plot is complex, at times overly complex, but I believe that the writer has given herself room to expand the story in future chapters and smooth out some of the areas that weren’t fully hashed out.

The story is written in 3rd person present and alternates points of view between the two main characters.

The writing at times was confusing. There’s so much going on, explosions and action scenes, that at times I lost sense of what was happening. I could understand the basic premise but the details were lost. The sex scenes were also a bit difficult to follow. Having said that, it didn’t distract from the story.

My Favourite Parts

I like that the story is something deeper than what it sets out to be: an action-packed story about a conspiracy. It’s about a woman, The Gorgon, who feels love for the first time in what might be her entire life. The love that she feels is so powerful that it helps her break her chains and change her life and rise. I envision part two of this book being more kicking ass and getting even with the people who’d been controlling her.

Heads Up

Head’s up for a suicide scene in the first chapter.

The Conclusion

If you like fast-paced suspense with a complex storyline, a bit of romance, and a lot of ass-kicking, you will like this story. This is also a story about breaking free, finding free-will, and letting love lead to something more.

Excerpt from Rise of the Gorgon by Tanai Walker

“My dear,” she said. “My darling Gorgon. You have had the blinders removed. It is my fault for shielding you from the world and its trappings. I thought if I kept your mind clean of too many memories you would only need and want me. But there is more to the human experience.”

She leaned down and kissed Cass on the lips.

“I will take better care in the future. You will be clean again, and lucky never to have known love. Ms. Pharell will not be so lucky. She will look for you out of the corner of her eye for the rest of her days.”

Thora produced an inoculation gun. Cass sat docile as Thora rolled up her sleeve and delivered the injection. She felt nothing, but she saw the blackness cloud her vision. She struggled to call on those memories of Elle, the sound of her laugh, the feel of her hands, but none of that would come.

Through the thickening black, she could only see Thora’s face watching her. As even she faded from Cass’s vision, she managed one word.

“Elle.”

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781626393677
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

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Note: I received a free review copy of Rise of the Gorgon by Tanai Walker. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

About the author

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Celeste Castro, she/her, is an American Mexican, Own Voices author from small-town, rural Idaho, where most of her stories take place. She grew up with learning disabilities, though she always kept a journal. When she was a young adult, court-ordered volunteer work helped her find her way—community outreach. In 2009, she graduated from Seattle University with a Master of Public Administration. She began writing fiction in 2015. Her writing credits include HOMECOMING, Bella Books, 2017. LEX FILES, Bella Books, 2018. WE’VE GOT THE POWER, Brisk Press, 2018. THE TAKING, Bella Books, 2019, SAVE THE DATE, Bella Books 2021 and PRIZE MONEY, Interlude Press, 2021. In addition to fiction, she is a staff writer with Hispanecdotes, an online magazine for Latinx writers, where she publishes essays and poetry.