29 June 2013

Playing with Fire

Author: Bruce Hale
Series: School for S.P.I.E.S.
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Bury

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher, and I really tried to enjoy it.  After all, I grew up on the likes of Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider, and this book seemed to be on par with those series at first glance.  I had a hard time putting my finger on why, but this series just doesn't add up to others in the genre.

For one, all the character names in this book are absurd apart from the man character, named Max.  We have a guy named Dijon (yes, as in the mustard).  Then we have Cinnabar (which made me hungry for a cinnabon every time I read it) and her sister Jazz.  The list goes on and on so I will spare you.  I know this shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did, but I just could not get over the character names in this novel.  In a novel with an unrealistic plot, I want the characters to be at least somewhat realistic to help me suspend my belief.

And then you have the entire character of Annie, the headmistress of the school/orphanage/whatever you want to call her.  Her broken English was so annoying I had to just glance over the majority of her dialogue in the book.  I know this is a typical characteristic given to characters not just in novels but in video entertainment as well, but come on.  It was way over the top in this book.

Then I get to the plot itself.  It wasn't that the plot was bad, it was just that the novel was written in such a way that I never connected with Max or any of the other spy orphans.  You would think having a main character that is an orphan would automatically garner some sympathy, but it surprisingly didn't in this case.  The subplot of the possibility of Max's father being alive played out to conclusion, but when we reached the climax I did not even care about the outcome.  The second half of this book was really hard for me to get through; I definitely struggled.

While I am usually a huge fan of spy novels (especially of over the top spy novels featuring adolescent spies), this one never managed to catch my interest.  It's hard to explain where the book took a wrong turn (the characters, the plot, all of it), but it definitely fell short of solid entertainment.

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