THE BALLAD OF MILA by Matteo Strukul

Publisher: Exhibit A

Publication Date: 2014


THE BALLAD OF MILA by Matteo StrukuThere are some basic themes in film and literature that are universal. True Love is one. Brutal gangland slayings are another. The never-ending quest for vengeance is another still. Epic violence and blood letting is a theme that oftentimes comes across in movies, music, and our favorite pulp novels.

THE BALLAD OF MILA by Matteo Strukul takes these ideas and repackages them into something new and fresh. Exhibit A has brought Strukul’s novel, which was originally published in Italy in 2011, here to the US. Translated by Marco Piva-Dittrich and Allan Guthrie, MILA has landed in America amid a hail of bullets and swinging katana swords.

The landscape of crime in Italy is facing epic changes. The traditional criminal organizations that have always existed are being encroached upon by the Chinese Triads. The Triads are growing stronger everyday. Tensions are rising. Something has to give. When Mila Zago emerges in the midst of a violent convenience store confrontation wearing a t-shirt that reads “Girls Kick Ass”, all parties take notice. In a flurry of leather, red dreadlocks, and blood, Mila is a force that is impossible to ignore. Strukul parcels out the story of who she is and what her plans are for the warring factions to the reader masterfully.

The first in an on-going series of novels starring Mila, Strukul presents a female lead that has seen epic horror in her life and used it to forge herself into an unstoppable force of vengeance. A pulp fueled superhero? Sure. But that’s what we were talking about at the start: universal themes in literature and pop culture. We’ve seen heroes emerge from tragedy so many times before. Batman springs to mind. But what matters is what you do with these basic tropes. What do you bring to the table that’s new? What we haven’t seen before?

Strukul uses MILA as an introduction to a character that readers can immediately feel like they know, feel for, and sympathize with. And it works. She slices and dices, kicks, punches, and shoots her way through gangsters and this reader LOVES IT.  And at the end? Where Mila goes next? Yeah, I didn’t see that coming.

I’ll be reading Mila’s adventures as long as Matteo Strukul keeps sending record of them here to the United States.

Dan Malmon