Alex Rider is back! I was so excited to learn that Horowitz created a new mission for his fifteen-year-old spy! Back when I was a teen, I loved the earlier books in the series. Never Say Die is such a fun read! Horowitz brings back his signature writing style, with its dramatic flair. Alex blowing stuff up? Check. Alex facing life-threatening situations? Check. Alex beating up bad guys with a cactus plant? Check! And you’ve got to admire Alex for being such a goodhearted guy, going out of his way to defend younger kids from school bullies.
I had a few minor quibbles. Sometimes the lengthy descriptions slowed down the pace of the story. I also thought the Grimaldi Brothers and other “villains” in the story felt a little one-dimensional. And I don’t know if I completely bought the entire plot since some events felt a bit coincidental. Don’t get me wrong – they were definitely fun and engaging to read. I won’t go into too much detail, because I don’t want to give any spoilers. But it didn’t seem realistic that a certain someone would just happen to step out in front of Alex as he is being shot at, inadvertently taking the bullet for him. Also, I found it odd that one of the prisoners is not constantly escorted by a guard in Smoke City. And Operation Steel Claw just didn’t seem as ingenious as some of the other story lines that Horowitz has come up with in the past. Even the future mission introduced at the end of the book sounded a little more intriguing than Operation Steel Claw. Skeleton Key and Eagle Strike retain their status as my favorites.
Another point is the relationship between Alex and Sabina. It felt a little flimsy in this book. Perhaps I had misinterpreted the nature of their relationship in previous books. I had thought that there was a romantic attraction between the two, but in this book, Horowitz characterizes their relationship as more sibling-like. To me, it didn’t feel consistent with the earlier books. And after the beginning of the book, Sabina and her family are no longer part of the plot. They just kind of fizzle out of the picture, and I thought their potential uses in the plot weren’t fully explored.
Perhaps I might sound slightly more critical because I’m now beyond the target age range, but this book was still a great Alex adventure with plenty of action! I’m truly glad I got the chance to read it. Some of the stunts were very dramatic and would make great movie scenes. And I admire the fact that this book is actually age-appropriate for younger teens, something that’s not as common nowadays. Anyone have any additional thoughts?