Blood Fever – Young Bond #2

Blood Fever

Author: Charlie Higson

Publication: Hyperion Books, 2006

Pages: 368

Overall Rating:  bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: James has joined the Danger Society, a secret club whose members crawl across the rooftops of Eton, risking expulsion  if anyone should catch them sneaking out of their houses without permission.   And that’s exactly what happens – a member is spotted on his way to a meeting, leading to a massive search of the grounds.  James flees, and on his way back to his room stumbles across two men speaking Latin and uncovers what looks like the meeting place of another far more secret society.

James is still struggling to make sense of what he found when the school term comes to an end and he heads off to Sardinia, accompanying one of his professors and a group of Eton students on an archeological tour of the island.  After what James believes was an attempt on his life, he leaves the tour to spend a few days at his Uncle Victor’s villa in a remote corner of Sardinia.  But even there, trouble finds him.

Following a break-in at Victor’s house, James eventually makes his way to the home of Count Ugo Carnifax.  And it is there that all the pieces of the puzzle finally come together.  James discovers his secret society, stumbles upon the kidnapped sister of a fellow Eton student, meets the beautiful but deadly Vendetta, and finds himself in a battle to the death with Count Ugo himself.

Age of Main Character: 13

What I Liked the Most: Higson doesn’t pull any punches or lower the danger quotient just because James is only 13.  He’s still James Bond and Higson treats him no different than the 007 we’ve all come to know from the movies.    While he does get more help from adults than I would have preferred, he’s generally on his own or operating only with the help of other teens like Vendetta.

Higson makes great use of the Sardinian countryside and it’s tradition of clannish villages, banditry, and blood feuds.    I especially liked the knife wielding Vendetta, who leads her own troop of mountain bandits.  She is another Bond Girl, much like Wilder Lawless in SilverFin – tough, independent, beautiful, and not to be trifled with.

James is relentless.  Once he smells a case, his curiosity is hooked and he can’t let go.  Higson lets that curiosity and James’ impetuous nature drive the story forward.  In SilverFin he let it show us just how courageous James could be.  Here we see that same courage, but with it is a new fighting spirit.  James has taken up boxing now and uses it to great effect in a few scenes.

As with SilverFin, this book is full of colorful characters.  Count Ugo and his sister Jana exude evil, and the pirate, Zoltan, with his injured arm oozing puss, is a dark figure always lurking in the background.  Vendetta is tough and fantastic, and Perry Mandeville, with his stutter and his love of danger and excitement adds needed bits of humor to the story.

What I Liked the Least: The only thing that really bothered me about this story was that there were two or three crucial times when James, faced with almost certain death, was rescued by an adult.  That didn’t happen in SilverFin, where James escaped from everything either on his own or with the help of other teens.  The rescues here worked within the context of the story and served an important role in developing one of the characters, but I still would have preferred it if Higson could have written the book without using adults to get James out of a tight scrape.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent.  As I said before, Higson doesn’t pull any punches because of James’s age.  The action is wonderfully detailed, whether James is swimming down a fast flowing aqueduct, in the midst of a furious gun battle, or creeping through Ugo’s villa in the dead of night.  One of the best scenes involves James in an open air boxing match against a much larger boy who has metal weights in his boxing gloves.  Higson does a wonderful job mixing it up, summarizing some of the fight but providing blow-by-blow details when the action gets good.  And throughout the fight we know exactly how James is feeling – his pain, his exhaustion, his fear, and his ever evolving strategy.

How Engaging was the Story?   Higson kept me riveted to the page through a skillful combination of action, colorful characters, and a mystery for James to unravel.  One thing he also does far more than in SilverFin is to switch back and forth between James and other viewpoint characters, especially Zoltan, County Ugo, and Amy – the kidnapped sister of one of his friends from Eton.  Zoltan is an especially intriguing character.  At the start of the story it looks like he might be the villain, but over time his character goes throughsignificant changes that ultimately turn him into something of a hero.  Watching that transition stoked my interest in the story as a whole, and made any scene with Zoltan in it all the more fun to read.

Overall Assessment: This was an exciting, well written book with plenty of action, colorful characters, and unpredictable twists of fate.  It’s another wonderful addition to the Young Bond series, and a must for anyone who loves a good spy novel.

Profanity: None

Sex: The closest it comes to sex is when Amy and James strip off their clothes and jump into the water for a swim – but there’s nothing sexual about it.

Violence: Right at the start Amy’s father is killed.  James gets into numerous fist fights.  He’s tortured by being tied to a stake over night and attacked by mosquitos.  There’s an attack on the cave he’s hiding in with Vendetta and many people are shot. A dam is blown up and a whole palazzo filled with people is destroyed.  Several people are killed in a fight with swords and harpoons.  Jana Carnifax is dies a very painful death.  The violence is can quite graphic at times.

 

 

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