Anthony Horowitz - Shastrix Books

Anthony Horowitz

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Forever and a Day

Forever and a Day

Anthony Horowitz

29th July 2018

I enjoyed Anthony Horiwitz’s first James Bond novel - and his Bond-esque Alex Rider series for younger readers - so was glad to see him back to write another. This time it’s a close prequel, dealing with Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent, with some elements taken from unpublished Ian Fleming story ideas.

Horowitz does an amazing job of replicating the Fleming writing style, presenting a narrative that’s so recognisable. The way he describes the clothes, the food, the characters, and especially the travelogue style of introducing locations expertly mirror that used by Fleming in the original novels, and it really makes these books feel like they are a real part of the Bond canon.

Bond’s attitude also replicates the 1950s approach of the original, and yet Horowitz subverts this by adding a stream of female characters who disprove these attitudes - each having unique personalities, opinions and abilities which in turn serve to shape Bond’s character and to counter his initial views.

The narrative also neatly includes references to the originals, as well as back to some of the Young Bond prequels that have been published in recent years. It’s clear that Bond is still being moulded into the character that Fleming portrays, and I was certainly amused to see the origins of several of his foibles coming through here.

A really good Bond novel - I’m glad they picked this author and I hope he’s able to continue writing novels like this in years to come.

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Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

Anthony Horowitz

29th April 2018

The ‘final’ novel in the Alex Rider series (because it turns out that another book has now been published) is one I’ve been looking for for some time. It’s an interesting twist on the series, which typically focuses on the titular teenager recruited into MI6 - instead this novel telling the surprisingly parallel story of his arch nemesis, a freelance assassin.

It’s actually a really compelling story, and was a real surprise as I hadn’t appreciated the difference from the rest of the series before starting reading. That said, it does make for a slightly disappointing finale, because it doesn’t wrap up our main character’s storyline, but instead fills in some of the gaps across the series as a whole.

Ultimately it’s just another boy spy, and they’ve become fairly commonplace in literature, but the opposing viewpoint makes it an interesting approach that’s worth reading if you are into the series.

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Trigger Mortis

Trigger Mortis

Anthony Horowitz

22nd September 2015

After writing the Alex Rider series of young adult spy stories, clearly modelled on Bond, Anthony Horowitz has finally graduated to the main programme and been invited to write the novel he's been lining himself up for.

Set shortly after Goldfinger, Bond finds himself caught up in both the repercussions of that mission and a new one where he travels to Germany to thwart a Russian plot. A fair chunk of the early part of the story is based on an outline Ian Fleming produced for a potential Bond TV series, and it's fascinating to see how Horowotz has blended in this original material into his narrative and expanded it into a full and rich story.

While much of the novel is written in passable Fleming style, the separation into two halves - one European and one American - goes against the Fleming tradition of alternating book settings, and there is limited overlap between the two parts which feels a little disconnected. The first half seems far more memorable, but that may be because my copy reinforced that with the Fleming script as an appendix.

Despite Horowitz's excellent writing and a solid and entertaining plot, I don't think that this will be remembered as a classic of the continuation novels (actually I'm not sure there is such a thing). It doesn't take any risks with the material, and as such does nothing to make it stand out.

Still, one of the best of the recent bunch of one-off Bond authors and I would have no objection to Horowitz getting the gig for a few episodes - perhaps with the remaining unpublished Fleming texts as inspiration. His grasp of the originals is strong and he's clearly done his research without becoming an obsessive fanboy.

If you enjoy the originals, this is probably the one to read now.

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Scorpia Rising

Scorpia Rising

Anthony Horowitz

11th February 2015

The 'final' book in the Alex Rider series is quite an explosive finale. It seems like everyone whose plans he's ever destroyed has come back for one big surprise revenge party

It feels like the writing style has come on in the ten years between the first book and this, and that while the character has only aged an implausibly small amount, the target audience has aged and the level of violence has upped.

It is a thrilling story, and reads much less like a James Bond parody than ever before. The bad guys plan is actually plausible and really well thought out, there are some really nice moments with some familiar characters, and at no point was I sure how the drama was going to unfold.

Actually a really good, shocking, final bow for the series that I really enjoyed. However I notice that there is now another book in the series, and I'm concerned that it will spoil the great ending here.

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Crocodile Tears

Crocodile Tears

Anthony Horowitz

16th March 2014

Alex Rider manages to fit in another adventure before reaching the age of fifteen, and as usual it resembles a James Bond film in many aspects. This story sees Rider caught up in an adventure by accident, but the coincidence rate in this series is starting to get suspicious.

The first thing you notice is that this book is much chunkier than the earlier episodes - my copy is a 400-page hardback, and at the pace that it races, with a draining amount of action and endless peril, it feels like a long read.

That peril feels deeper than before - the descriptions are more believable, the danger more real and the graphicness of some of the action make it seem aimed at an older audience than before. This could be a good thing for fans as the books were published who don't find the stories becoming childish, but to a younger reader coming to the stories for the first time now it might go a step too far.

Overall, I think it's one if the best in the series (although there's one plot point that bothered me at the end) and I really liked the author's efforts to bring some of the recurring characters to life a little more and display, or at least question, some of their motivations.

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Snakehead

Snakehead

Anthony Horowitz

24th November 2013

Alex Rider returns in a direct continuation from the previous novel, which sees him team up with the Australian Secret Service to try to crack a people smuggling operation. It's another thrilling and fast-moving action novel, although seems to be borrowing more and more from the format of the James Bond films.

The novel introduces some interesting new characters and motivations, and is clearly trying to enrich the world that the stories inhabit. There's also some threat that's unexpectedly strong for an entry in this series, though it's written very much with the target audience in mind, and the reader isn't exposed to anything too traumatic, just the idea.

One thing that's emphasised heavily in this book is the short amount of time that has passed since Alex Rider's first adventure. Presumably this is to make him seem the right age still for the target audience, but for me had the effect of breaking the flow of the narrative and making the overarching story seem less plausible - this is the seventh book after all.

Overall though it makes for a good adventure that explores a much wider setting than before, delves into the past, and builds up the overall plot that's been developing throughout the series.

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Ark Angel

Ark Angel

Anthony Horowitz

7th June 2013

Following directly on from the end of the previous novel, Alex Rider accidentally interrupts a kidnapping attempt and is once again drawn into the world of secret agents that he longs to escape. It's a great thriller and one of the best in the series, which has improved as it's gone on.

This entry in particular feels a lot like a James Bond movie, almost straying into parody in places, and is a little more brutal and graphic than the earlier books in the series. The action depicts some violence and a considerable amount of threat, that may not be considered suitable for the youngest readers.

Horowitz does well to keep the plot grounded and believable, and even when it seems like the story is going to jump the shark his writing keeps it feeling just authentic enough. It's clear a lot of research has gone into the book and I found it one of his most enjoyable stories.

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Other reviewed books

Scorpia
Eagle Strike
Skeleton Key
Point Blanc
Stormbreaker

Unreviewed books

Magpie Murders
Raven's Gate
The House of Silk

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