The first thing I have to say about this latest and apparently final Alex Rider adventure is that Alex himself does not appear until more than a hundred pages into the book. And as I read those hundred plus pages, I admit that I had my doubts. It reads like a checklist of the villains who survived the Alex Rider missions, all uniting to get him. It struck me that it was the sort of gamble that only a writer finishing a very successful series could afford to make.
It’s not the only change in this volume either. One of the reliable things about the Alex Rider books was that they were all a little bit the same, to tell the truth. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all fun and I love them for it, but after Stormbreaker, the first volume in the series, quickly told Alex’s back story, the series hasn’t strayed much from its winning formula. There are many things about that formula present in this volume too: Alex’s reluctance to get involved while MI-6 finds a way to pull him back in, a tricked out bicycle chase, fights where Alex must show his ingenuity, evil criminal masterminds with plots so convoluted they’re funny. But there is also a new tone. Alex’s reluctance to work for MI-6 is more genuine this time. He has grown up a little and has a new outlook. As well, the violence and brutality of the story has grown up with some big surprises toward the end. But the biggest change is that, thanks to that initial set up, the audience has been let in on the plot from the beginning, meaning that while there are still a few details missing, there’s a lot less to unravel than in other volumes. Instead, we’re left with a sinking feeling that this mission will go awry as we watch Alex walk into a trap.
Overall, I think it was a nice end to the series. And, of course, if you don’t know them, they’re the perfect thing to give a young teenage boy looking for something fun to read.