Tuesday, July 3

SilverFin by Charlie Higson

'Don't ever be a spy.'

James Bond is meant to be spending his holidays spending time with his aunt and ailing uncle - but his school days at Eton aren't easy to leave him. School bully George Hellebore lives nearby, along with his father, Lord Randolph Hellebore.

When a young boy disappears after fishing on Hellebore's land, James teams up with the honourable English bloke, Red. The two of them set out to discover what happened to the boy and what secrets Hellebore is operating.

Can James and Red uncover the truth? Something sinister is afoot.

I listened to this on audio and the only reason I did was because it was narrated by Nathaniel Parker. That being said, it was a bloody good book.

I was caught by the writing from the start. Like a fish hook caught in the skin, it is an uncomfortable ride. Plenty of action and suspense kept me riveted throughout, along with some excellent characterisation.

There are so many moments in 'SilverFin' where Higson could have taken the smooth and easy route (copped out) but this was some stunning plot work. He really knew how to grate the reader (or in my case, listener) and push the limits, always twisting things in ways I didn't expect.

I'll admit to being unfamiliar with the character of James Bond. I haven't read any of the books and I've scarcely seen any of the film adaptations. He's such a quintessential figure and thus in need of being well handled. While I can't compare (I shall have to look into reading some authentic Bond) Higson's skill is apparent.

Regardless of whether he is a true portrayal of the man Fleming wrote, Higson's Young Bond is a magnetic character. He's intuitive and brave, without being obnoxious or a ray of perfection. You'd think it would be hard to connect with this kid because it's obvious Higson couldn't off him. In spite of that, I still felt on edge with the suspense of the situations he was getting himself into.

George was a far more layered character than I anticipated. He had depth and a sympathetic nature without any of that "Oh, I'm a good boy sugar plum fairy in disguise" schtick. I always appreciate authors who don't screw you over with that front.

I'm disappointed to see that Parker only narrated the first three Young Bond novels, though he stuck around longer than with the Alex Rider books. On that note, those who have read and liked Horowitz's 'Stormbreaker' will certainly not want to miss out on 'SilverFin.'

Look forward to listening to the sequel, 'Blood Fever.'
In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer bought this book. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Puffin and is used solely as an aide to the review.

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