Stormbreaker – Alex Rider book 1

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Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publication: Scholastic , 2000

Pages: 256

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                       

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

Quantity of Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Age Category: 9 – 12

Brief Summary: Alex Rider’s uncle and guardian, Ian, has just died in a car accident.  But everything is not as it seems.  Alex soon discovers that his uncle was murdered, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  His uncle was actually a spy, working for British Intelligence.  He was assassinated shortly after making a big break in the case he was working on.  Now his superiors at MI6 want Alex to step in and take over the case.  He may only be 14, but as far as they’re concerned, he’s perfect for the job.  After throwing him through a two week SAS survival course, they send him out into the field.  And he soon finds himself alone, racing against time to stop a madman with his own private army from carrying out a devastating plot to kill thousands of children.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Horowitz does an excellent job balancing Alex’s character.  He’s got an unhealthy dose of curiosity and a penchant for getting himself in trouble that leads to some explosive action.  But, at the same time, he’s not a gung ho spy and action junkie.  He hates the situation MI6 has put him in.  He’s determined to do whatever it takes to complete the mission, but he also wants nothing more than to go home and put the whole thing behind him.  That tension makes Alex an interesting character to follow and gives the book some real depth.

What I Liked the Least: The story was a bit too short.  Given that it had to cover not just the mission Alex was sent on, but also his recruitment and training, it felt like it could have used another 50 pages or so to flesh things out.  There are a couple of spots where he seems to make discoveries and connections a little too easily and I would have preferred to have Horowitz slow down and provide more detail and depth to Alex’s investigation.  But that’s a minor concern.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent.  Horowitz is in a league of his own when it comes to action.  The pace is fast to begin with, and once Alex tips his hand and lets the folks he’s investigating know that he’s a spy it really explodes.  Alex dodges assassins trying to run him over with quad bikes, is almost drowned in a tank filled with a giant jellyfish, makes a terrifying journey through a half submerged mine, escapes a car about to be crushed in a junk yard, and catches a ride on the outside of an airplane using nothing but a harpoon gun and a length of rope.  He escapes certain death on at least half a dozen occasions, often finding ingenious ways to outwit and overcome people who are older, bigger, and better armed than he is.  This is only the first book in the series, and in many ways the action is actually tame compared to his late adventures he is, but it’s still top notch.

How Engaging was the Story?   Alex’s reluctance to do MI6’s bidding does give the story some depth, and we do get to know Alex fairly well as a character – though Horowitz leaves plenty of questions to be explored in later books.  Still, this first book in the series is primarily about the action.  It’s a fast paced read that ultimately left me with a lot of unanswered questions about the motives of some the characters – especially Mr. Grin and Nadia Vole, two of the villain’s main cronies

Overall Assessment: This is a fun book.  It lacks some of the depth found in later books in the Alex Rider series, but it’s still provides a wild, action-packed ride.  And it really is required reading for anyone who wants to explore the later books in the series.  Don’t hesitate to pick it up.

Profanity: A little.  There are a few uses of the word ‘hell’ and Herod Sayle, the villain, likes to say ‘bliddy’ – his version of bloody – on a regular basis.

Sex: None.

Violence: A lot.  Alex is almost crushed in a car.  Other people are cut in half, stung to death by a giant jellyfish, blown up in a plane crash, and shot.  Plenty of people die, and Alex – directly or indirectly – causes the deaths of at least 8 to 10 people.  That said it is not a gory novel.  While people do die, there’s not a lot of blood and guts and most of the violence has something of a swashbuckling feel to it.

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