Matthew Reilly is an author known for his non spot action and this is no different, well except for the introduction of dragons:
The Chinese have been hiding their biggest secret yet for the past 40 years, they have made a discovery that had the ability to change, shape and even destroy the world. They have proven the existence of dragons a discovery that will amaze the world, at least that is what they are hoping to achieve with the opening of The Great China Zoo. Chinese leaders have allowed a few very important and influential people from the West to view the zoo before they officially open and among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron who was once the foremost researcher on the largest known lizards on earth, crocodiles. But all her knowledge and training will not prepare her for what she about to witness. Although their Chinese hosts assure them that everything is safe with everything that mother nature’s creates and humans trying to shape it to their will, there will always be consequences.
Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow Series is one of my all-time favourite series for an action adventure read. In that series Reilly is not afraid to have his main characters injured or even die (the death in the book Scarecrow still breaks my heart). I have tried to get into some of his other series, Jack West Jr. Series (7 Ancient Wonders) but they have lacked some of the chemistry and characters for Reilly's Scarecrow series. When I saw that Reilly had a new book out with a female lead I wanted to give it a try, Reilly tends to always have a strong female character or two in all his books and I wanted to see how he had one as a lead character.
CJ is way way too lucky in this book it seemed like at every turn that there was a tool that she could use to get herself out of trouble and she was even more quick thinking and on her feet that a trained solider, which I found a bit off. CJ main comes unscathed throughout the novel (yes there is an injury here and there, but it never really seems to slow her down) and I found this took away from the suspense for the book. Any time she was in a situation that looked impossible I was just waiting for the perfect tool to show up, which it always did. This is not to say that CJ is not resourceful, she is to an extreme degree but it seemed like she was able MacGyver her way out of every situation, which takes away from the thrills and suspense Reilly was going for.
Reilly does take you on a thrill ride through The Great China Zoo, there are some interesting and unique action sequences that he has written out and this mainly has to do with the introduction of dragons into the book. Reilly is also very creative in some of the death of the characters in the book and some are downright gruesome.
I think the aspect that Reilly did the best with in this book was his creation and take on the dragons, the different kinds and really the strength and weakness of each. He gave the dragons the ability to be the superior being in all sense. It was interesting to watch the dragons execute the plan that they had made, and how us dumb humans who think we are above everything, never saw it coming.
I appreciate that Reilly took a different step in the use of dragons in his novel, though this is not the first time he has introduced a different creature (see his book The Temple, which is a good read too), however, I think this book lacked the suspense of his previous book of no one really being safe which I know I missed. I think Reilly is a great action adventure writer but missed the mark on this book with some of the things I have come to expect and appreciate in his other works.