* Prices may differ from that shown
I can't remember just who I am quoting - likely a politician - as I have been reading about literacy again recently. I don't normally agree with politicians, but this one sentence did make sense. Children have so many avenues of entertainment now. If we want them to choose books over electronic entertainment - we need to find books that they just can not put down. Boys are much more selective in what they read, so finding books to really inspire them to read more may be a challenge, but thanks to Amazon - it isn't too much of a challenge. There are quite a few books written just for boys, and some of them, like this are very, very good.
After reading the first three Alex Rider Graphic novels, my son was really anxious for the the fourth. At one time he was even counting the months until this was released - but by the time it came out, his interest had swayed from spies to superheroes and this sadly sat on the shelf for over a month untouched - except by me. OK I'll admit it- I was out of books and read this myself, and I even enjoyed it.
With the school year starting though, my son was out of unread comics and needed to find something to do his basic reading for the day and he ended up with this. I had assigned a set number of pages, but I was delighted that he couldn't stop once he was started. He literally was laughing out loud and running back and forth to show me the really good parts. Of course I had read this myself, but I do always show enthusiasm when a child wants to discuss a book. This is just the kind of book to draw boys in and make them find reading irresistible. It is full of action, adventure and plenty of laughs.
If you have read any of the previous Alex Rider books, you'll know he was blackmailed by MI6 into working as spy. Alex never wanted anything but to be a normal child - at least that is what he always says. He does seem to have a thirst for adrenaline rich adventures and a knack for finding trouble.
This book begins with a flash back in time to the Amazon jungle "15 years ago". Two men are in military clothing. One bears a strong resemblance to Alex Rider, while the other looks very much like Yassen Gregorvich, a Russian terrorist who killed Alex's uncle, but spared his life, telling him to stay out of his world - or the world of spies and deniable operators. The one who looks like Alex saves the life of the other - calling him Cossack. Nothing more is said as to how these two fit into the story but it soon becomes obvious that Gregorovich has some bond with Alex - just not enough of a bond to stop him murdering the boy's uncle and guardian.
Once again the story begins with poor Alex just trying to have a normal holiday with his girlfriends family - but he can't resist a bit of snooping when he sees Yassen Gregorovich show up. When the villa he is staying in is blown up, seriously injuring his girlfriends journalist father, Alex does a bit more snooping and soon has the drop on Gregorovich, but Alex isn't a killer and for some reason Gregorvich will not kill Alex. All the evidence points to a superstar pop singer, and also one of the richest men in the world being involved - but no one will listen to Alex and his "friends" at MI6 give him the cold shoulder - all but one of them anyway, Mr Smithers hasn't forgotten about Alex and sends him a wee gift.
Naturally Alex decides to pursue the investigation on his own and he soon finds himself in the position of being needed to save the world once again that is if he can save his own life first. I won't go into more detail as I truly hate any spoilers, but I will mention that real life version of a video game involved simply because this gives the book so much appeal to children. My son absolutely loved this part - but his very favourite part of the book was the pop star/ villain having a temper tantrum. He still can not even show anyone that part with being nearly in tears with laughter, and now my 4 year old wants to hear the story too.
As an adult I enjoyed the story but I can't say that I would buy it just for myself. Of course I won't have to buy the next book for myself - I am quite certain I will buy it for my sons. This book is written for a younger audience. There is violence in this book, and even death, so if you find these subjects unacceptable in children's literature you may want to skip this one. Personally - I have no problems with it, and will have no problems reading it to my 4 year old either. My four year old has listened to other Alex Rider books and does enjoy them - but they are bit long for him - and I do believe he will get more from them in a few years. Ideally I would say this book would best suit children from ages 6 -12 perhaps up to 14. As for as reading level my sons read other books in this series from age 6 and had no problems at all with this at age 7, so I would class this a fairly easy book to read. I realise every child learns to read at a different age though, and I do feel the over abundance of books and hours of nightly stories has led to my son being a bit on the advanced side with books. It does have the advantage though of having lots of illustrations to help children keep the flow of the story - even if the odd word gives them trouble. I do feel that comics and graphic novels make reading easier, and therefore are a wonderful tool to encourage literacy.
Finally, as this is a graphic novel, no review could be complete without mention of the graphics. I wouldn't class the illustrations as works of art. They do have a comic book style to them, but they are very good. I am giving the illustrations 5 out of 5 stars, and 5 stars for the story as well. I think this book should be on the shelves of every school and library in the country, and if you have a boy who enjoys adventure stories - it should be on your book shelves as well. I am also quite certain I would have loved this book as a child myself - so while it it is aimed at boys - I expect many girls would enjoy this as well.