Bodyguard: Hostage

17797635

Title: Bodyguard: Hostage

Note: As of summer 2014, this was the first in an already released two book series in Great Britain, but was only available as an e-book in the US. However, given the success of Bradford’s Young Samurai series, I expect this one to become more widely available to American audiences before long.

Author: Chris Bradford

Publication: 2013, Puffin

Pages: 421

Overall Rating: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

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

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Conner Reeves is the son of a bodyguard who died in the line of duty. After winning a British kickboxing championship, he is recruited by Buddyguard, a secret organization that provides highly trained teenage bodyguards as an invisible layer of protection for the children of wealthy clients. But Conner could never have guessed what his first assignment will be – guarding the daughter of the US president. And with a terrorist plot closing in, it will take all of his skill and courage to keep her alive.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Before writing the book, Bradford went through training and became certified as a professional bodyguard. He brings that knowledge to bear, giving both Conner’s training and the tactics he employs while on the job a very realistic flair. And it’s not just the tactics, it’s Conner’s mentality. Reading this book was like living and breathing the world of a professional bodyguard.

I also liked how Bradford artfully interspersed glimpses of the unfolding terrorist plot with a slowly building sense of threat as Conner goes from confronting a school bully to street thugs all while attempting to win the respect of the Secret Service and deal with the 1st daughter’s wilful disregard for the rules. You can see it all coming to a head, and I enjoyed the constant state of uncertainty – would this be the moment the terrorists finally strike? When it does happen, it’s perfect.

What I Liked the Least: For much of the book I felt slightly disappointed that Bradford had taken the easy road by using a stereotypical band of fanatical Muslims as his terrorists. But even this was not a true problem. There were hints throughout that the terrorist leader had more on his mind than sending a simple message of violence to the US government. And by the end it was clear that this was part of a far more complex plot, a-la season one of 24, one that will presumably be revealed more fully as the series progresses.  So my one problem with the book turned out to be no problem at all.

How Good was the Action? Amazing. Bradford’s training really shows through here. The chases throb with energy and the fights felt utterly real – brief, decisive, and violent. There’s no long, drawn-out exchange of blows. When Conner has to fight, it happens fast. But Bradford still leaves room to lace the action with Conner’s own heated emotions, and he doesn’t shy away from violence. When one of Conner’s enemies pulls a knife, you know someone’s going to get stabbed.

How Engaging was the Story? Bradford’s a master at dropping hints and seeding the book with the kinds of small details that keep you on your toes, trying to anticipate where they might lead down the road. And by the end of the book he manages to tie them all together, while leaving plenty of material for the next book.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I both liked and respected Conner as a character.   Within the first couple of chapters I was hooked and rooting for him to succeed. And while Alicia (the president’s daughter) at first came across as somewhat spoiled, it didn’t take Bradford long to fill her out into a complex, 3-dimensional character that I couldn’t help but like.

Overall Assessment: A whopping good adventure story, with great characters, plot twists galore, gut-wrenching action, and a birds-eye view into the world of professional bodyguards and the Secret Service. Who could ask for more?

Profanity: None.

Sex: A single kiss.

Violence: Obviously. There are stabbings and shootings, and when people get hurt the blood flows – as it should. But the violence is never gratuitous and the descriptions aren’t overly gory. It’s violence for the sake of story, not for shock value.

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