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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Anthony Horowitz

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To purchase Stormbreaker

Title: Stormbreaker
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000
Length: 234 pages
Availability: Stormbreaker - US
Stormbreaker - UK
Stormbreaker - Canada
Stormbreaker - India
Stormbreaker - France
Stormbreaker - Deutschland
Stormbreaker - Italia
  • Stormbreaker is the first in the Alex Rider series

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Our Assessment:

B- : simplistic, but starts off well enough before getting too cartoonishly ludicrous

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Stormbreaker, the first volume in the series, introduces teen secret agent Alex Rider. The fourteen-year-old orphan doesn't start out as a secret agent, but his life changes when his uncle, Ian Rider, who raised him, is killed in what is reported to be a car accident. It turns out that Uncle Ian wasn't quite who he said he was; rather than working for a bank, he worked for the government. And he was working on a big case when he got himself killed -- a case where Alex can conveniently follow in, if not fill, his footsteps.
       The man Ian was investigating was self-made millionaire -- and one-time schoolmate of the current British Prime Minister -- Herod Sayle. He was: "born in complete poverty in the backstreets of Cairo. His father was a failed oral hygienist" (really ? a failed oral hygienist, of all things ? in Cairo ?), but he saved some visiting English tourists when he was a boy, and they plucked him out of there and basically adopted him, buying him the finest education possible. He became a great success -- and is now set to launch his "revolutionary computer that he calls the Stormbreaker", complete with a big launch where, after giving away tens of thousands of them to every school in England, a big press of a button by the Prime Minister will bring them all online simultaneously. But MI6 have reason to believe Sayle has more nefarious plans -- they just don't know exactly what they might be.
       Alex is to take the place of a boy who won a contest to be the first to try out Stormbreaker, complete with the opportunity to spend a few days at Sayles' headquarters, allowing Alex to pick up where Ian's investigations left off.
       First Alex gets a crash training course in being a spy -- though Ian already had begun to prepare him: "Ever since the boy was old enough to walk, he's been being trained for intelligence work ... but without knowing it." Then he gets a few James Bond-like gadgets and the like that MI6 might come in handy (and guess what ...). And then he's off to learn about Stormbreaker.
       Sayle's Port Tallon headquarters is a nicely unsettling place, from the presence of the appropriately-named Mr.Grin -- with his two horrendous scars (and missing his tongue) --, an enormous aquarium complete with giant Portuguese man-of-war ("If you were to find yourself wrapped in there, it would be an unforgettable death", Sayle observes), and some secretive doings on the off-limits production-line. But Alex noses around and soon discovers exactly what is going on -- and it's bad. Really bad. Sayle brags that when the Stormbreaker button is pushed: "then they will know me for what I am !" -- and that won't be a good thing.
       Stormbreaker starts out as relatively simplistic boyhood secret agent fantasy. Alex is no Wunderkind -- in fact, even after his training, he's not really great at even some of the basics (introducing himself to Sayle as 'Alex', rather than using the name of the boy he is replacing -- and only coming up with a lame explanation for why he uses that name). Even at Sayle's headquarters, his first attempts to figure out what is going on are reasonable enough. But once it becomes vaguely clear what's going on things get out of hand fast -- and the story culminates in a laughably silly act of last-second would-be heroics that would seem silly even in a comic book.
       There's something to be said for complete fantasy, but Rider isn't presented as any sort of fantastical super-hero at the start. He's not your average kid, but he starts out as a close approximation of one -- but Horowitz doesn't let him remain that, as the story takes some ludicrous turns, from Sayle's plot to how Alex saves the day.
       The writing is simple but adequate. Some scenes are rushed, but for a fast-paced action story it moves at a good pace -- except that as it accelerates it holds up less and less to any scrutiny. It moves too quickly from far-fetched escapist fiction to silly fantasy -- which ultimately makes it far less satisfying.
       Stormbreaker is fine, quick, completely unchallenging kiddie-lit -- but also disappointing, given the premise and the promising beginning.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 March 2012

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Stormbreaker: Reviews: The Alex Rider series: Anthony Horowitz: Other books in the Alex Rider-series by Anthony Horowitz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Anthony Horowitz was born in 1956.

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