Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Self-Isolation Read - Nightshade

  • Title And Author: Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz
  • Publisher: Walker Books
  • Physical, eBook or Audiobook: Physical
  • Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Bought
  • Length: 448 Pages

One of the the weird things about self-isolation over the Easter Weekend (yes, I know this is going to go live on the Pewter Wolf a few weeks after I read it and write up this review) is that the amount of free time I have to read. Am trying to keep a daily routine but, with a normal working-day, I can only grab snatches of reading here and there but I rely on audiobooks and podcasts the most. But what I mean is that reading a book of this size would normally take me several weeks and yet, the past few weeks, I have been reading books of this size at a pace and I’m not sure how my reading is going to cope when I go back to work…

But we’re not here to talk about work, we are here to talk about Nightshade, the twelfth Alex Rider novel. I have read Alex on and off since my college days (starting with Eagle Strike) and, earlier this year, I audiobooked/reread Ark Angel, a bit of a “jump the shark” in the series and, after that, I went “I’m going to read Nightshade. I mean, what is the mysterious Nightshade that was referenced at the end of Never Say Die?”. So, I preordered it and, unlike the other preorders I made while in self-isolation which I start then DNF/put on hold, I powered through this at quick a speed. 

After the events of Never Say Die, the criminal organisation Scorpia is truly dead and all 15 year old Alex Rider wants to do is go back to school, study for his GCSEs and not be a spy anymore for MI6. But MI6 have other ideas. According to intel they have recently discovered, a new and far more dangerous criminal organisation has come on their radar: Nightshade. 

And they seem to be using children. MI6 want Alex to go to a high security prison in Gibraltar to befriend a boy who, without hesitation, killed an MI6 agent, several policemen and will happily kill without question. As Alex tries to get involved with this boy’s involvement with Nightshade, he finds out an attack will hit London and must, somehow, stop it. But this time, he’s on his own…

I’m glad I’m making myself go back into the world of Alex Rider because it’s a mix of fun, comforting and pure escapism. I admit that this series isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea (what if James Bond was a regular teenage who was dragged into this world?) but there’s something about this series that is fun. 

It’s interesting that the Alex Rider books where Alex is fourteen (starting with Stormbreaker and ending with Scorpia Rising  - though we do have Russian Roulette that focus on fan fave, Yassen Gregorovich), the missions have a slight sci-fi twist to them (at the time. Look now to technology such as space travel and cloning, we are very close), whereas the newer Alex Rider novels, starting with Never Say Die (Alex Rider 2.0, if you will), the books are far more grounded, more darker in tone and seems to go a little further. 

For me, this book has two parts. The first half is slower in pace - this isn’t a bad thing, but I like stories where I hit the ground running. But I completely get why I struggled with this half - we are setting up a new criminal organisation, one that seems to be far more ruthless and coldblooded compared to Scorpia and unlike Scorpia, Alex discovers this differently. Alex first hears about it at the end of Eagle Strike with hints that his father was involved so Alex had a personal reason to find out more. Here, Alex has no real ties to it, (but other main characters do) so it’s a slower burn and, because of that and Alex slowly trying to get in, it takes time. But, once we got halfway through the book, the book suddenly picks up pace and we are running. I do hope that, because of this, the next book in the series continue with this speed. 

I am going to keep going with this new Nightshade arc as I am so intrigued over where Anthony is going to go. Though I am a little worried over Alex, as much as I enjoy this series and I think fans all over the world, I don’t want this series to outstay its welcome. There are several series that did and fans were glad when these series ended and I don’t want that to happen to Alex. 

But I’m planning to stay with Alex for a little while longer. I’m thinking of rereading some old Alex Rider missions and maybe one or two I haven’t. You’re not getting rid of me that easily… 

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