ussian Roulette is a mystery, much like its protagonist: it’s a story of a little boy from little Russian village with little idea of how big and bad the world really is.
Yassen Gregoravich is one of the most legendary names to any Alex Rider fan. Though his appearances in the Alex Rider books are very rare, and happen for barely five minutes each time, he leaves the reader with a haunting impact.
Russian Roulette is about his past and the story begins with Yassen getting instructions to kill Alex Rider. This particular case forces him to read back on his diary, retracing his own life before taking Alex’s.
Yasha (Yassen) lives a sheltered and happy life with his parents and his mildly insane grandmother. But like all legends, there is a twist, a turning point in his tale where he transforms from an innocent village boy to the world’s most in-demand and deadly assassin. The real story starts when his parents are killed in a factory accident. Yasha has no time to say goodbye or grieve. All he has time to do is flee from the poisoning, give his mother one last desperate hug and run far, far away from the flames that burn down his home and his heart. He arrives in Moscow: 14 years old, helpless, and frightened.
Soon death is on his heels. After a robbery gone wrong he is taken as a prisoner, a slave without any value or possessions. The little humanity left inside him is shattered into pieces and Yassen begins to plan his great escape. His thirst for freedom leads him straight into the arms of a dangerous criminal organization. Yassen is forced to decide whether he wants to be the man who carves out his own fate or succumbs to the control of death, who has been patiently keeping him company all these years.
The fact that Horowitz made death an important element of the plot while keeping the story so real and down to earth proves that he belongs to a class of authors who have complete mastery over every word they write. Novels featuring assassins always, without fail, give us a good idea of what’s going in an assassins head and how they use their minds. Russian Roulette stands out becuase it shows us the heart of the assassin as opposed to the mind.
In simple words, this particular novel holds the unrivalled title for the best backstory to a character, ever.