Young Sherlock Holmes: Red Leech

Young Sherlock Holmes Red Leech

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Death Cloud. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Young Sherlock Holmes series was written by Andrew Lane and authorised by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The novels focus on a fourteen year old Sherlock as he begins to develop the skills that will characterise him as an adult. At the time of writing, six books have been published – Death Cloud (2010), Red Leech (published as Rebel Fire in America) (2010), Black Ice (2011), Fire Storm (2011), Snake Bite (2012) and Knife Edge (2013). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Red Leech only.

Following the events of Death Cloud, Sherlock has returned to live with his Uncle in the country and has resumed his studies under the former bounty hunter, Amyus Crowe. However, before he has chance to recover from his previous adventure, he finds himself thrust into another when Mycroft arrives with alarming news. John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, is rumoured to be alive and well and living in the neighbouring town.

Although Amyus tells Sherlock not to get involved, he and his friend Matty swiftly take off to investigate the claim. However, their search backfires when Sherlock is captured and almost shot by Booth’s cohorts. In the ensuing escape, Matty is kidnapped and taken with the Confederates as they flee back to America.

Fearing that they intend to use Booth to rally a new army and restart the Civil War, Amyus swiftly follows them and brings both Sherlock and his daughter, Virginia, with him to help with his investigation. However, their journey is wrought with danger. The Confederates know that Amyus will follow them and have taken steps to ensure that he never reaches America…

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The End of You and Me

The End of You and Me

The End of You and Me was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Wendi M Lee. The novel is a contemporary coming-of-age tale that focuses on the relationship between two teenagers as they struggle to overcome the various obstacles that try to keep them apart.

Kate and London have always done everything together. Ever since they were children, they have considered themselves as one being – always thinking and acting alike. Their school friends all think that they are strange, not seeing how two people can be so close and yet not in a relationship, but this has never bothered the young couple. They are just content in each other’s presence.

Everything starts to change when Anastasia breezes into their lives. Although she is the new girl in their class, Anastasia quickly makes a reputation for herself with her tall tales, plucky attitude and seductive behaviour. She quickly latches on to Kate and London, professing a fascination in their relationship while continuing to flirt with both of them. Equally intrigued, the couple begin to spend more time with her.

Following a run in with Kate’s controlling father, she is forever banned from spending time with her soul mate. In order to still be with him, they begin to meet in secret at Anastasia’s home. However, as they spend more time with Anastasia they start to notice a change in her. The mood swings grow increasingly erratic and she begins to show more and more interest in London. How far will she be able to push Kate before she snaps, and is there any way that the lovers can be together forever when everyone keeps trying to drive them apart?

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Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

I already took a look at the work of Anthony Horowitz a few months ago when I reviewed The Falcon’s Malteser but today I’ve decided to focus on what is arguably his most popular series. The Alex Rider series follows the adventures of a fourteen year old boy as he is recruited into the MI6. At the time of writing spans ten novels – Stormbreaker (2000), Point Blanc (2001), Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013) – as well as several short stories and supplementary books. For the purpose of this review, I will be focusing on Stormbreaker only.

When Alex Rider is told that his Uncle Ian has been killed in a car accident he immediately releases that something is afoot. His uncle was always safety conscious, especially in regards to wearing seatbelts, and so never would have died in such a way. He knows that the manager of the bank where his uncle worked must be lying to him. He just needs to find out why.

As he investigates into Ian’s death, Alex soon discovers that his suspicions were correct. His uncle was actually a spy for the MI6 and was gunned down while investigating a billionaire named Herod Sayle. Sayle has made his fortune by creating a powerful and cheap desktop computer called the Stormbreaker and has recently become popular across the nation by promising to gift one of the machines to every secondary school. The MI6 were suspicious of his generosity before, but Ian’s death has lead them to realise that Sayle must be up to something dangerous.

Realising that Sayle would now be suspicious of another adult operative, the MI6 recruit Alex into their ranks and pass him off as a boy who has won a contest to be the first person to try out a Stormbreaker in order to gain him access to Sayle’s headquarters. Once inside, Alex is placed in more danger that he has ever been in his life. The fate of every school child in England may hinge on his success but if he is caught he knows that he is likely to meet the same fate as his uncle…

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Blood Red, Snow White

Blood Red Snow White

Costa Children’s Book Award nominee Blood Red, Snow White was written by Marcus Sedgwick and first published in 2007. The tale, told through three short stories, is loosely based on true events but presents a fictionalised account of Arthur Ransome’s experiences in Russia from 1913 to 1919.

The first of the novellas, A Russian Fairy Tale, sets the scene by telling the story of the fall of the Tsarist regime. Sprinkling the story with light fantasy elements, it weaves a tale of woodcutters, royalty, monks and bears while describing the historical events that occurred between Bloody Sunday and the February Revolution of 1917.

The second story, One Night in Moscow, is more of a philosophical piece. Its third person narrative follows Ransome over his early years in Russia, charting his personal conflict as he finds himself both drawn to the ideals of Bolshevism while being disgusted by the atrocities that it causes. Over this time, he meets Evgenia – secretary of Trotsky – and immediately falls in love with her. However, this love puts him in great danger. The more time he spends with her, the more his fellow Englishmen come to believe that he is a communist spy.

The final story, A Fairy Tale, Ending, is told in first person from the perspective of Ransome as he struggles to clear his name. While he is visiting family in England, he discovers that the situation in Russia has grown worse. Civil War has struck the country and he fears that Evgenia could be in grave danger if she is captured by Tsarist White Army. Facing almost certain death, he embarks on a mission to get back into Russia in order to rescue his lover.

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Graham’s Charlotte

Graham's Charlotte

This review is going to be a little different from the previous ones that I have posted on this site.  Graham’s Charlotte is the first solo novel by Drew Farnsworth and is due for release on 17 April 2014. As it is not yet available for purchase, I am writing this entry based on an advanced reader copy and, because of this, I am aware that what I have read may not be indicative of the quality of the final product. Please bear that in mind as you continue with this review.

While on a trip to Costa Rica, Madison Riley is suddenly approached by a stranger who seems to know a worrying amount about her life. He claims that in two weeks’ time she will break into the headquarters of National Security Agency in order to delete a file. The stranger, calling himself Graham, claims that if she does not she will be putting her mother’s life in danger.

Madison is not inclined to believe him, but he gives her a mobile phone which he claims has the ability to predict future events. This proves to be true moments later when an earthquake rocks the airport and the phone helps Madison to escape death and rescue her trapped friends. Graham leaves her, warning her to never show the phone to anyone. There are dangerous people who would kill her in order to possess such advanced technology.

Now more inclined to trust Graham, Madison returns home and begins to experiment with the phone. It proves to be able to do virtually anything, giving accurate answers to any question that she asks of it. However, when she questions it about how she is going to break into the NSA, all it does is provide her with a complex explanation that seems near impossible for her to achieve. Yet she knows that failure is not an option, not when her mother’s life is in danger.

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The Bone Dragon

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The Bone Dragon boasts a rather impressive array of accreditations. It was named as a Book of the Year in 2013 for both the Financial Times and the Independent, as well as being shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and long listed for the Branford Boase Award. It was first published in 2013 and is the debut novel of Alexia Casale.

The novel is told from the perspective of Evie, a fourteen year old girl who has been adopted by a loving couple after years of terrible abuse at the hands of her maternal grandparents. At first, she is unable to open up to her new family but eventually plucks up the confidence to reveal to them the horrible extent of her injuries – she has never told anyone her ribs are broken and has been suffering in silence for years.

During her surgery, a piece of Evie’s rib is removed and the doctor gives it to her as a souvenir. Although her mother finds this morbid, her Uncle Ben helps her to carve the rib into a dragon as part of her therapy.

While Evie struggles to come to terms with her dark past by day, in her dreams the dragon comes to life and guides her on moonlit walks across the fens, allowing her to find peace in the night. At first this is therapeutic for her but gradually the dragon dreams begin to grow more sinister. Although cryptic, the dragon seems to be urging for her to take revenge on the people who have wronged her and begins to  fixate on the fact that it will soon be the time of their ‘dark moon’…

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Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud

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Following the success of Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond series, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle authorised a run of novels to introduce the adventures of Sherlock Holmes to teenage readers. This series, written by Andrew Lane, tells the story of a fourteen year old Sherlock as he begins to develop the deductive skills that will serve him well in later life. The first novel is titled Death Cloud and was published in 2010. It has been subsequently followed by Red Leech (2010 – published in America under the name Rebel Heart), Black Ice (2011), Fire Storm (2011), Snake Bite (2012) and Knife Edge (2013).

Due to his father’s military service and his mother’s illness, Sherlock Holmes is forced to spend his summer holiday staying with his eccentric uncle in the British countryside. At first, Sherlock is annoyed by this decision. The town where he has been forced to stay is boring, the house keeper seems to hate him and he wishes that he had been allowed to stay in London with his brother, Mycroft. However, everything changes when he discovers a dead body.

His uncle’s gardener is found in the forest, his body covered in horrible boils. The only clue is a plume of smoke that is seen rising from the corpse. This is the second death of this kind within a matter of days and it causes panic to spread as the townsfolk fear that the cause is the bubonic plague.

Sherlock is less convinced by this and, as he investigates, quickly becomes certain that the deaths were both murders. However, the further he digs; the more danger he places himself in. Trusting only in his friends, Matty and Virginia, and his tutor, Amyus Crowe, Sherlock rushes to get to the root of the conspiracy before his enemies succeed in silencing him forever.

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