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REVIEW: Made To Be Broken by Kelley Armstrong

Dear Ms. Armstrong,

055358838901lzzzzzzzWhile I’m quite familiar with your Otherworld novels, your non-paranormal Nadia Stafford books are a recent discovery for me.   But as I said in that review, sometimes being late to the party can have its advantages.   Namely, no long wait in between books!   And unless I’m mistaken, almost two years have passed since Exit Strategy was published.

Nadia Stafford is a former cop who lost her career when she killed a suspect on the job.   These days, she runs a lodge and has been rebuilding her life.   But it takes a while to make a business profitable so to keep the lodge afloat, she works as a hitwoman for a small-time New York mafia family.

These days, things have been going well.   She’s making enough money now that she can hire an assistant.   It’s true the assistant in question is not the most personable or responsible of employees, but Nadia wants to help the girl, who’s a teenaged single mother and comes from a family known for being bad news.   Everyone else in town has given up on the girl but Nadia refuses to be like them.

Then one day the girl and her baby go missing.   Everyone in town thinks the girl ran off — even her own mother.   Nadia suspects otherwise.   When she looks into it, what she discovers is far worse than she ever imagined.

If Exit Strategy explores the lines assassins refuse to cross and the conditions under which they decide to break their own personal codes, Made To Be Broken builds on that and adds in the layer of what makes a person worth saving.   Nadia’s employee is written off as trash, just like her mother, who was just like her mother before her.   But Nadia wanted to help her, because she saw a girl who’d never been given a chance to escape her family’s reputation.

As was shown in the previous book, Nadia continues to exhibit guilt over what happened to her cousin, Amy.   She wasn’t able to save Amy from being raped or killed, nor was she able to give Amy justice because the rapist was found innocent of all charges.   In a way, finding out what happened to her employee is a second chance for her.   Amy’s memory haunts every decision and action — from second-guessing what she could have done differently to prevent her employee’s disappearance to the irrational overreactions when she does learn exactly what happened.

What I found most interesting in this storyline, however, is the further details we receive about Amy’s rape and murder.   Even though the narrative explicitly says one thing, I believe it implicitly states something else about Nadia’s involvement.   If I inferred correctly, I think it explains a great deal about Nadia, her outlook on life, the way she approaches relationships of all kinds, and why her survivor’s guilt is so pervasive.   Jane and I chatted about this aspect and we had both reached the same conclusion separately, so I’m very interested in hearing from other readers as to what they think.

Jack and Nadia continue to tease us by dancing around each other.   At the start of Made To Be Broken, their relationship is strained due to a lack of communication.     As a result, their interactions have a different feel from the previous novel.   I’m not exactly sure where Nadia’s relationship with Quinn is headed, but I might just have blinders on because I keep wanting to push Jack and Nadia towards one another.   I guess that’s for another book.

While I don’t think Made To Be Broken was quite as tightly plotted as Exit Strategy, I do think it made up for it with the character developments and hints into Nadia’s past.   I felt it was simpler story in that sense, so readers who prefer less intricately layered plots will be pleased.   As for myself, I certainly hope there will be more books in the series because honestly, I want more Nadia and Jack.   I feel like their relationship is approaching the breaking point, one way or another, and I hope us readers will get to see what happens when that day comes.   B

My regards,

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!


  1. Jennie
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 16:43:37

    Thanks for the review. I have this book tbr but I haven’t read the first book (nor have I read any of the author’s paranormal series).

    I’m curious about how the heroine’s profession is portrayed. I don’t mind assassin heroes/heroines, necessarily, but I get cranky when they are portrayed as noble because they only kill people who “deserve it”. Can you give me an idea of whether that is how Nadia is depicted? I tend to be fairly anti-vigilante and anti-killing-people-in-general, so I prefer my assassins more morally ambiguous (and hopefully, destined to reform at some point) than Disneyfied.

  2. Jia
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 17:00:42

    I would actually say Nadia’s depiction as very matter-of-fact. It pays the bills. On one hand, you could say she kills people who “deserve it” because she usually kills criminals but on the other hand, the people who hire her to kill those criminals are mafia. And the only reason they want her to kill those people are because they tend to be either former associates who doublecrossed them or rivals.

    Nadia knows she kills people for a living. It’s never glorified but to me, it’s never been depicted as “I only ever kill those nasty people so that makes what I do okay.” One of her fellow assassins (Quinn) is a vigilante, or rather has the mentality of a vigilante — he’s federal agent who sometimes gets frustrated with how the system fails to deliver justice. That’s why his nickname is Boy Scout. While Nadia isn’t as cold as some of her associates, she ultimately has a different mindset from Quinn even though they have a similar background.

  3. Jane
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 19:23:49

    I actually liked this book better than the first one, Exit Strategy, and it reminded me of the voice of Armstrong that I found in Bitten. It’s a bit more introspective than her recent paranormals. I like the moral questions she’s raising about the duality of being assassins with a certain ethical code.

  4. Christine M.
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 20:07:09

    I ordered it at the bookstore where I work two months ago. It probably got in in the last few days and with a little bit of luck I’ll get my hands on it tomorrow!

    Thanks for the great review, it makes me want to read it even more. :)

  5. Marg
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 20:11:58

    I really enjoyed the first book of this series – the fact that there are reasons for why Nadia does this as a job, and how she treats it as a job! Her interaction with Jack is a definite highlight as well. I am hoping that this one lands on my bookshelf soon.

  6. Renee
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 21:46:29

    Jennie: I think Nadia’s own wrestling with whether she kills those who “deserve it” is one of the strengths of Made to be Broken. I love this series, but was made uncomfortable at times by some of the lines that the characters cross. Kelley Armstrong really pulls of this tension and explores the different motivations of each of the assassins –Nadia, Quinn, and Jack–have for doing what they do.

    Thanks for the review, Jia! I think this series often gets overlooked, and it’s well worth checking out.

  7. Annmarie
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 22:26:01

    I pre-ordered my copy but have yet to receive it.

    Can’t WAIT.

    After reading this review, REALLY can’t wait.

  8. Jennie
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 23:39:30

    Thanks, Jia and Renee, for the info. I will give it a try but I probably should pick up the first book first.

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