Once again, I am clearly not in the target audience for this book, but this is one that adults seem to enjoy every bit as much as the children. For this reason I will be very careful to avoid spoilers, but anyone concerned if this is suitable for their child is more than welcome to email me for full details. This book does have a stamp on the back "Not Suitable for Younger Readers". In all honesty, I would have no problem with my 7 year old son reading this - but I would have a problem with the next book in the series so we will wait until he is just a little bit older to start these. I believe these books were intended for teenagers, not very young children, and there is some strong violence and death, although it is not depicted in overly graphic detail. The book is intense though and there is strong sense of menace in some parts. This may prove frightening for some youngsters. There are no scenes of a sexual nature in this specific book, but there are in the next, although these are not at all graphic - they are in my opinion too much for a 7 year old.
I bought this book because my son and I both loved the Young James Bond Books, and he is very fond of Alex Rider as well. I very much feel that these books will appeal to the same audience as the Young Bond books, and despite my son's recent infatuation with graphic novels, I am quite certain he would enjoy this as well, but as I am not comfortable for him to read the entire series, I will let this wait a bit. The reading level is pretty much on par with adult books, and I feel the story itself is most likely to appeal to children of age 8 or higher. For the entire series though, I think age 10 -12 would be a better age to start reading these, and even this is questionable. I do honestly feel these books are equally suitable for adults, and it is only the fact that young children are major characters that causes this to be classed as Young Adult. I am certainly not young ( and I'm not so sure about the adult bit) but I found this book brilliant.
The Escape is written by Robert Muchamore, who is best known for his CHERUB series. I have not read the CHERUB books so can not compare, but this is honestly an exceptionally well written book. I hesitated buying this for quite some time, as I found the idea of an experienced British intelligence officer using children where the stakes are life and death a bit far fetched, but the way this is worked into the story is in fact, completely believable. I loved the Young Bond books - but they do require you to be willing to stretch the limits of credibility just a wee bit. If all the spy / slash adventure stories I have read, this is the most easy to believe, with the possible exception of Ian Fleming.
The story begins with divided between two settings. The first is the orphanage that is home to young Marc Kilgour, abandoned at birth, the Nazi invasion may just be the best thing that has ever happened to him. He will see violence and brutality,but he has known these all of his life, and for the first time in his life, he will find kindness as well. His path will cross that of Charles Henderson, the last British intelligence officer operating behind German lines, and while the man is loathe to use a child, he ends up in a situation where the choice he takes is the lesser of possible evils.
Meanwhile, Rosie and Paul have lived a fairly comfortable life, other than the sorrow at their Mother's death some time before. They are technically British, born to British parents but raised in France. All that changes when their father pulls them out of school, and begins a mad race for Paris to reach Henderson with a suitcase full of stolen blueprints and German agents hot on their tail. Soon the lives of these children will be in serious jeopardy, Charles Henderson is their only hope of survival. Will he use a child to save another - or in this case two? The only other alternative is to simply abandon Marc, which could be a fate worse than death for this child who has already suffered enough of abandonment.
I honestly enjoyed this book a great deal and couldn't wait to get the second. Muchamore depicts the chaos that descends upon Paris in the first days of occupation in such a manner that one can almost smell the stench, feel the weariness, and completely imagine the scene. It is full of action and adventure, but it does remain rooted in the realms of possibility here. The characters are exceptionally well developed and you really do get a feel for them. None of them are perfect - there are no "superhero" types. Neither are there many caricature villains. There is one Gestapo Officer who comes across as completely evil, but i did find this believable. The other Germans are not evil, but none really have the bottle to stand up to this man - again I find this very plausible - furthermore I do not believe a lower ranking German soldier could really stand up to the Gestapo - although friendly fire might have been a good idea at some point.
Beyond all the action and adventure though, I developed a real feeling for the characters. I especially liked the gradually developing relationship between Marc and Henderson. I like the fact that before young Marc ran afoul of the Gestapo, he half idolised the Germans at one point. I think this is natural, under the circumstances. I did find the first chapters hard to read though, where Marc was in a brutal children's home. I had a very short experience of a children's home myself as a child, and I don't care much for scenes like this. But I suppose the fact that this sickened me a bit shows it was well written.
Overall I did really enjoy this book, and I feel that it will appeal to many adults as well. If you like war stories, action, adventure and espionage, this is most certainly for you. On the other hand if you simply like stories about children coming to grips with troubling circumstances, you might enjoy this as well. I have no problems giving this book a 5 star rating, but I do not think this book is nearly as good as the next one. Perhaps because so much time had to go into character development and setting the scene. This is an excellent book, but 'Eagle Day', which comes next is even better - so if you are looking for a good series to start on, this is definitely worth considering.
I will point out that the second book is a bit less suitable for young readers, there is one scene involving sex - it is fairly innocent and I'm not quite sure my son would catch on, but it would make me uncomfortable reading it to him. There is also a scene with attempted rape - of a child no less. It isn't graphic, and it is dealt with very quickly in a satisfying ( somewhat violent) manner, without ever going beyond a quick grope and kiss, but awkward reading for the very young. It also has at least one scene where those who insist on complete historical accuracy may be pulling their hair out. But beyond these minor issues, it is an incredible story. I especially like the fact that "enemies" are portrayed as human, even kind in some cases. You do get a feeling for the German characters as well, as far more than just enemies. I would not normally go into such detail on the second book - but the second book is really why I recommend this so strongly, and also why I recommend saving this book for slightly older readers. You could read this one on it's own. It is capable of standing alone. But, I am quite certain if my son read this one, he would want to read the next - and so will you!
This book currently sells for £3.91, new from Amazon, or £2.43 used, both prices inclusive of postage.
What's the story?
This is part of a series, only 2 books so far but with another due in spring 2010.
The book starts by setting the scene describing how Nazi Germany invaded France in May 1940, and then jumps to the beginning of June 1940 where in this first chapter you are introduced to a 12-year-old orphan called Marc.
In chapter 2 you are introduced to 2 other children Rosie and Paul Clarke whose father is attempting to flee Paris with them and the blueprints of a radio system, which the Nazis are trying to get from him.
The story continues and eventually the 3 children come together along with a man called Henderson who is a British spy.
Eventually they reach Bordeaux to get on a ship to the UK. Only problem is that Marc doesn't have a passport so Henderson sends the 2 Clarke children on board and says that he and Marc will join them soon.
Unfortunately the ship then gets bombed in an air raid and sinks 5km from the port. Rosie surfaces to find an American boy called PT beside her but no sign of her brother Paul, and the precious blueprints have sunk with the ship.
What did I think?
I loved this book. Yes I know it's for kids but I was totally enthralled. I loved the way the chapters jumped between characters allowing the story to develop easily. Its written in such a descriptive way that I could visualise myself there. I didn't want to put the book down.
As a book aimed at youngsters it is quite graphic in places as it describes some of the deaths which may be a bit too much for some kids but then again maybe I'm just comparing it to what I was reading when I was 12.
The author Robert Muchamore has written another set of books called the Cherub series, which are set in the present day. These are about kids that are secret agents and in them it mentions that the Cherub set up came about because of Charles Henderson back in WW2, the Henderson Boys books tell this story.
I can't wait to get stuck into the next book titled Eagle Day; I'll review it soon!!
My book came with a map/poster which shows the German invasion and has a timeline of 1940 with major events, which is interesting. I'm sure kids will learn about some of the horrors of war from reading these books.
RRP £6.99 but available cheaper on sites such as Amazon.