Anthony Horowitz They told him his uncle died in a car accident. Fourteen-year-old Alex knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s windshield confirm his suspicions. But nothing prepares him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for MI6–Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. Recruited to find his uncle’s killers and complete his final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Having heard lots of good things about Anthony Horowitz I thought I’d check out his work. Stormbreaker seemed a good place to start; and it was!
The story gets going quickly and maintains a fast pace throughout. It is easy to read and well written. The chapters are about the right length, especially for the target audience (pre-teens and early teenagers). I also think that although this is probably more aimed at boys, a lot of girls would enjoy the adventurers of Alex Rider.
So to the story! This is a gripping yarn, a spy story after the heart of James Bond. As Alex is recruited into MI6 and trained in an army style for his mission he has to learn to survive in a tough adult environment where he is certainly not liked by everyone. He is then presented with his very own set of teenage boy spy gadgets, including metal melting zit cream (I love it) and sent off to spy on Herod Sayle who has made the country an offer that seems too good to be true. Alex has a few days to find out what is going on, and he does get to use his gadgets too!
Alex is a great character, he manages to seem like a normal teenage boy in the way he looks at many things, girls for example! And yet he is so obviously extraordinary as he begins to question what has happened to his Uncle and grow into a whole new role that he is more or less forced into. He proves to be quick thinking, quick on his feet and courageous. His escape from the Breakers Yard is truly remarkable, and this is only the first of many excitements and tight situations. It also seems that his Uncle has been preparing him for his future as Alex has learned many languages, can drive a car and do Karate, among many other things.
In addition to all this there is a fantastic tongue in cheek humour running through the book, Horowitz does send up the spy genre and plays on the villains in particular. Mr Grin is a brilliant example of this with his scar for a smile and inability to speak properly.
In case you are wondering if this is suitable for your child I will add that there is some violence, none of it graphic, but guns are used and Alex does shoot someone (even though he is specifically not trained to do this). If you, or your child haven’t read this kind of book before you might want to read it first, but unless your child is particularly sensitive or younger than the target audience then I think you are likely to find they love it and want the next one. Verdict: It does seem to be the perfect book for any kid that dreams of being a spy and having amazing adventures! Reviewed by Helen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: August 2006
Genre: Action, Adventure
Age: Middle Grade
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book, Oldest Book