Eagle Strike, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider reread #4)

“I have a couple of questions,” he said.

“Do, please, go ahead.”

“My first one is for Yassen Gregorovich.” He turned to the Russian. “Why are you working for this lunatic?”

This is the one I’ve been dreading. I actually opened and closed this three times on the train because as soon as I read the intro chapter I remembered what was going to happen. I’m not even discussing that in this review, because spoilers, but I’m putting it out there that I’m sad.

Rating: 4 stars!

Alex Rider series so far:

So at the end of Skeleton Key, we had another Alex-is-dead fake-out after the nuclear fiasco in Murmansk and Sarov’s shot’s fired moment. This was Alex fake-out number two, and I will be keeping score. At least this one only lasted a couple of pages. Alex has just seen a murdering general shoot himself a few feet away from him, after thwarting his plans and rejecting his weird adoption overtures. Alex is getting pretty scarred and traumatised now, and Mrs. Jones thinks they should leave him the hell alone. True to form, Blunt don’t care. There wasn’t a huge amount of carry-over info at the end of Skeleton Key, apart from that the CIA are now very aware of Alex’s existence and word might be getting out to other intelligence agencies. Let’s see what trouble he gets into this time.

The plot:

Sir Damian Cray is a pop-star, a philanthropist and a peace-maker. He only needs a little more to save the world from itself. Only Alex seems to realise that maybe it’s Sir Cray that the world needs saving from and under his charitable mask lays a monster. Before, Alex has always had MI6 behind him but this time its just him vs the most popular man in the world. And time is running out.

What did I think?

Right away this book made me sad for Alex for the thousandth time. It’s been ONE month since Wimbledon, as of the start of this book. I read that twice, to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding it. One month. That means it’s been a couple of weeks at absolute most (maybe less considering that it was Wimbledon-Miami-Cuba-Scotland-Russia) since Alex watched Sarov shoot himself in close quarters. Can someone (Anthony Horowitz, I’m looking at you) please give this boy a break. How does he get up in the morning, it takes me 6 to 8 weeks to get over a mild inconvenience.

The pre-adventure in Eagle Strike is less disconnected than they usually are. It’s very much tied into the plot of the story itself, especially seeing as we’re all of three seconds in when we get our first glimpse of my man. I’ll admit I laughed my ass off at Alex’s reaction to Yassen. I know that it’s his shock at seeing his nemesis, but every time he acts as though the world stops when he sees Yassen, I laugh. It reads like a YA insta-love scene every time, not a teenager and his middle-aged ‘nemesis’. Did nobody sense check these scenes, or is my crush on Yassen seriously throwing me off here? Anyway. The actual book. The pre-adventure also helped us see how Alex is developing as a spy. It also shows his increasing independence and mistrust in authority figures around him.

I am absolutely convinced that Damian Cray is supposed to resemble someone, but I don’t know enough about music to be able to tell you who he is. But he’s definitely, definitely someone, take my word for it. Hopefully he’s a bastardised version of that person, though, else we need to keep a closer eye on our millionaire musicians. Cray’s character is cool as shit. Absolutely bonkers and awful, but cool as shit. There’s a point where he kills one of his ex-henchman (not really a spoiler, it’s par for the course in an Alex Rider story) and the way that he kills them is so goddamn cool-gross. I remembered what happens about three sentences before it did, and all my notes say is “FUCKING HARDCORE”. I continue to love me a villain. Although, his stance is a little… wonky. Sure, drug addiction is bad but so is nuclear fallout, Cray. Apply common sense as needed.

I started to notice while writing up this review that the Alex Rider books, at least so far in the early series, are very formulaic. There are some things that are hit in every single book. Pre-adventure, adventure, Alex uses most of his gadgets in one go, bad guy kills a henchman, Alex whips out his last gadget and then we think for five minutes that Alex is dead, ultimately he saves the day. Having said that, the stories are distinct enough that I don’t hate the formulaic nature of the early books – particularly as the way things happen is so distinctive. Giant magnets, Portuguese Man-of-wars, horrifying coin murder. Everything is so vivid and different from previous entries that I don’t mind so much, and these are kid’s books after all. If they stop being so interesting I would be extremely critical of the formula but, well, it works.

YASSEN. I couldn’t get through this whole book without delving into my first ever villain crush. I was like pre-teen when I started reading the Alex Rider books for the first time and while I always loved Alex I was obssessed with Yassen Gregorovich. Then I went on to fall in love with every interesting villain to ever cross my path so it makes a LOT more sense in hindsight. He’s a side-character in Alex’s story, and his fate makes me SAD but I do love the role he plays in Eagle Strike, and how that triggers the events of Scorpia. I also love that Anthony Horowitz presents him as more complicated than the good or bad characters we see everywhere in kid-lit. We’ve got Yassen, a good-bad guy, but one who protects our protagonist and one with a strong moral compass. It’s skewed sure, but he maintains his principles fiercely. Compare that to Blunt, a bad-good-guy and you really get an illustration of morally grey characters. We’ve got a contract killer who refuses to hurt children and spymaster who’s willing to throw a child under bus to further his goals. This is absolutely why I’m fascinated by morally grey characters, by the way. I’m dreading getting to Russian Roulette because I’ve always refused to read it and it’s going to kill me.

Best Alex moment of Eagle Strike?

“We have an hour before we have to leave,” Cray said. “So I thought I might tell you a little about myself. I thought it might pass the time.”

“I’m not really all that interested,” Alex said.

My rating so far:


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