Scorpia Rising, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider reread #9)

They didn’t just live with secrets. Secrecy surrounded their entire lives.

It’s the final mission! (It’s not, but at the time, we thought it was). With a name like Scorpia Rising, I know it’s gonna be good. Scorpia are back, the stakes are high and this was originally the end of the series. Gotta be a good one.

Rating: 5 stars!

Alex Rider series so far:

At the end of Snakehead, Alex is done with MI6 – which we’ve heard before. But we saw Blunt finally showing some respect to Alex, and Jack is done with his spy antics, so maybe this time it’s for real. We left Alex in hospital, in the same hospital room as he was at the beginning of Ark Angel. But he survived crocodiles in Kenya, saved millions of people from poisoned crops, and he’s out now. He’s about to turn fifteen, and it’s time to put his year of hell behind him. Right?

The plot:

After failing to con him into betraying his country and MI6, and after the events of Snakehead where Alex killed one of their leaders and crippled a huge source of funds for them, Scorpia are coming after him harder than ever. Now the dangerous terrorist organisation is working in the Middle East and there’s nobody who knows Scorpia like Alex Rider. But Scorpia know him too, and know how to get under his skin and in this final battle only one can be victorious.

What did I think?

I tried to keep in mind during this novel that it was always intended to be the final part of a series, and honestly? That made it even better. There’s actually a lot to be said about the fact that in 2011 when this series ‘ended’ Anthony Horowitz left the ending open but it was not, if you ask me, a happy ending. It was hopeful, but it carried the weight of the previous books and more than that it carried the reality of a fourteen year old child being drawn into this world that is too brutal for a lot of adults. This was an excellent closing novel, and it was a really powerful read. It was also different to earlier novels. We didn’t actually even see Alex for 130 pages, and I really liked that. We got a more in-depth introduction to several characters including discovering this story’s bad guy and his background in a way that was far more interesting than the exposition dump that happened in a few of the earlier books.

I think Razim might be my favourite of all the antagonists in this series. Maybe that’s because we got to see more depth into his backstory, or maybe just because he bucked the trend of the earlier ‘bad guys’. He doesn’t take things personally, a trait that got almost all of the other antagonists into trouble, and he’s cruel for cruelty’s sake. Money and pain are the only things he cares about and he has no allusions of the greater good. Julius Grief is back too, and god I kind of love Julius’ character. He’s the worst, but he’s such an interesting character to read about. He’s a hugely complex ethical and moral tangle all crammed into the body of an angsty teenager. We see his grip on reality crumbling a little and honestly? I kind of get it. Puberty is hard enough without having to see your worst enemy’s face every time you look in the mirror. 

Scorpia’s plan this time is honestly brilliant. Awful but brilliant. The job almost seems benign compared to usual Scorpia plans. Invisible Sword was ‘murder thousands of children in the streets’ and this time all they want is to return the Elgin marbles to Greece. Wish I could tell them to wait a few years and let Brexit take care of that. I don’t even disagree with it. Return trophies of colonialism, it’s not something to be proud of. The way Razim has decided to handle it is twisted but genius. It doesn’t even really count as framing MI6 if everything they ‘catch’ them doing is bloody true. Documenting Alex’s mission is an effective killing strike because it would isolate the UK wholly to have it revealed that they were using literal child soldiers for espionage. 

Throughout this story, Jack’s role seemed to waver back and forth. Knowing what I do about the story, I think that the goal was to humanise her but it kind of just made her dislikable to me. She’s going to toss Alex, a vulnerable teen, into the system because he wants to spend time at the weekend with his friends instead of her? Sure it might feel like a snub, but a) he’s fifteen and b) Jack wanted him to have a normal life. If Alex gets trapped in the system, MI6 would have him on a really short leash. I do understand where she’s coming from, but at the end of the day Alex is a child. I never want kids, but if I agreed to look after one, I’d do everything I could for them.

The only other thing I want to point out is that the Smithers shit is completely fatphobic. No question. The implication that being fat is a disguise to pass as feeble and helpless is disgusting. Smithers was one of the greatest characters in this series, so I mean. Thanks for making him a piece of shit at the last second? It was completely unnecessary and I’ve been pissed off about it since starting this whole re-read.


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