Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider Reread #1)

“The boy’s quite mad,” the woman retorted.
“Well maybe that’s what we need.”
“You’re just going to sit here and watch him kill himself?”
“I’m going to sit here and hope he survives.”

As soon as I started my blog I knew I had to do an Alex Rider series, so I’ve been planning out this post collection from the start. Unless I’ve royally messed up my timings, I’ll be re-reading and reviewing one of the Alex Rider books a week until Nightshade, book 11 in the main series, is in my hands. I honestly can’t wait.

Alex Rider has been my favourite book series since I was young. Even now it holds such powerful nostalgia with me, and when Never Say Die was announced after a 6 year break, it’s safe to say that I lost my shit. Every time I revisit Alex’s world, it’s a delight, and even if I’m more critical at 22 than I was at 8 or 9 when I started reading this series, it still has a HUGE place in my heart.

Rating: 4 stars!

Read me for the:

  • Action-packed thriller
  • Inventive gadgets
  • Big supervillain energy
  • Alex, the snarky and funny MC we all need
  • Yassen Gregorovich (f i g h t m e)

The plot:

When Alex is told his uncle has died in a car accident, something doesn’t add up. After tracking down his uncle’s car, Alex can see it’s no accident – not unless car accidents now leave bullet shaped holes in the windshield. His boring uncle was actually an MI6 spy and after realising that he was being groomed to take his uncle’s place since he was young, Alex has to finish what Ian started or every child in England will die.

What did I think?

If I honestly think about it, I would say that Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker is probably THE book I’ve read more often than any other book in the world. It’s my stress-release self-care book go to, and I get stressed a lot. I actually curled up and reread it on Boxing Day this time around. This isn’t the strongest inclusion to the Alex Rider series, but every book in this series is so easy to read and this one has some amazingly memorable moments. I really wish that the Stormbreaker movie had been better (I actually love the movie, but it did mess with chronology a little too much) because an epic Alex Rider film series would have been SO GOOD.

MI-6 need a child. The only way they can get an agent into Herod Sayle’s highly fortified base only a few days before the Stormbreaker launch is through taking advantage of a magazine competition that was run. That’s why only a fourteen year old could get in, so when Alan Blunt stumbles across a fourteen year old with the skills of a trained spy, he forgets BASIC COMMON SENSE AND MORALS. Alex Rider is a bad-ass. He knows martial arts, he can SCUBA, he speaks four languages and he’s experienced in lots of extreme sports. He’s a survivor. It’d be improbable in most books, but Horowitz acknowledges that. Ian Rider, Alex’s spy uncle, has been training him in the skills he would need to be a spy from the moment Alex could walk. This means that Alex is far, far more capable than most fourteen year old boys. Still, the main thing that comes into my head rereading this book is ‘Alan what the fuck’. Not only does he wilfully send Alex into danger, sending him with gadgets but nothing to defend himself, he gives him eleven days of training beforehand and calls it a day. I know we’re on a time crunch Alan, but Christ. He’s fourteen. Alex, on the other hand, is probably the most sensible character around here. He says no, thanks, and ends up being blackmailed into the whole mess.

Alex Rider is kind of an iconic character to me. He’s got that very 00’s sassy kind of personality, but as far as I can remember (and certainly in Stormbreaker) he never pushes over the edge into cringe-worthy. He’s flippant in this book, if scared at moments, and to me reads a lot like a boy dragged into an adventure he’s not quite qualified for but that he thinks he can handle. That arrogance seems pretty natural to me. He’s never been through this kind of violent trauma before, or danger, and he’s had lots of extreme experiences in controlled settings that would lead him to thinking he can handle it. He’s also very strongly driven by right-and-wrong, and once he realises there’s something wrong in Sayle’s compound he feels duty driven to do something about it. No, he doesn’t reach out for adults much, but he has no reason to trust Blunt and nobody that he does trust to contact.

In moments, this book felt a little like it suffered from Ian ex machina. Ian Rider had been there before him, and done the lion’s share of the spy work. Alex finds clues, hints and equipment Ian has left behind that helps him complete his mission. I’m not completely convinced that a competent and trained spy would leave huge fuck-off hints to what he was doing lying around, but hey. Maybe that’s what got him killed. But, this is Alex’s first adventure, and I’d rather him be guided by those who came before him than be suddenly a competent Mary Sue spy. If the rest of the books have these sudden saviour moments (I don’t think they do) and they don’t show Alex learning from these techniques I won’t be so forgiving. It also helps that this is completely acknowledged:

Alex wouldn’t have got nearly as far as this without his help, and he wished now that he had known his uncle a little better and perhaps admired him a little more before he died.

I love that this book doesn’t pull its punches. It’s not excessively gory or violent, still in the realms of appropriate to kids, but it hasn’t got baby gloves on. This was super noticeable to me because I’ve been reading YA Star Wars novels lately and all of them have guns set to stun, and everyone’s nicey-nicey-no-kills. It’s fine, I guess, but not realistic. In Stormbreaker though? They’re out to kill. MI-6 didn’t give Alex a weapon, but the guards at the compound are armed. People die regularly, and brutally, and the guards do not hesitate to fire on a fourteen year old boy. It feels realistic, and makes the threat level much more engaging. It actually feels like Alex’s life was at risk. The violent scenes are vivid and iconic, for example the car-crusher at the beginning of the book, and the ‘bad guys’ in this series are actually bad. They’re awful. Even Yassen Gregorovich, who was my second ever crush as a pre-teen who loved grey-characters, is completely amoral in his work. He’s complicit in this plot to kill kids, and there’s a memorable as hell scene where a guard drops a crate that Yassen is overseeing. It’s freaking brutal. I love it. But there’s depth too. He refuses to kill Alex and we don’t know why (well. I very much know why, but we don’t know why in Stormbreaker).

“It’s OK. I’m sorry,” the guard said. “It’s not damaged and I won’t do that again.”

“No. You won’t,” Yassen agreed, and shot him.

At the end of Stormbreaker, Alex is a little dinged, but mostly still shiny. He’s still optimistic, and I low-key miss this Alex (things get bad for my boy in this series, okay?)

And to finish up, my favourite Alex moment in Stormbreaker HAS to be:

Alex opened his eyes. So he was still alive! That was a nice surprise.

What an icon. Catch you next week for Point Blanc!


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