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Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, its never good news, begins Stormbreaker, the first in Anthony Horowitzs bestselling Alex Rider series.

I would definitely concur. The last time someone buzzed me at three in the morning it was my twenty-one-year-old sister-in-law asking to borrow a MacBook cable for someones twenty-first speech.

Of course, the adventures that followed my own early-morning contact simply involved a bit of sleep-deprived conversation and then some more sleep. There was nothing at all about my uncle having been brutally murdered, his identity being revealed as an MI6 operative, or my being recruited as a young spy to monitor some dodgy wheelings and dealings relating to school computers.

But where life (and sleeping patterns) went quite promptly back to normal for me, the same is not true for Alex, for whom all the above applies. Soon enough, hes narrowly escaping near-death situations, playing with Go-Go-Gadget devices, and kicking broody chaps out of aeroplanes. For their own good, of course. And then theres the whole undercover assignment thing where Alex is sent to investigate self-made millionaire Darrius Sayle, whose computers for all! philanthropic program seems just a little bit dodgy.

Stormbreaker is a quick and zippy read, but its not without its problems. Alex suffers from the everyman-type characterisation issues that plague many heroes in similar series: hes a fairly flat, bland character whos really only painted into existence by those around him. Hes given little personality of his own; rather hes the sum of his skills and gadgets. Where a character in another book might surprise you with an emotional outburst, Alex surprises you with Secret Karate Skills. Or his ability to drive a car. Or his knowledge of jellyfish.

The fact that hes largely acting alone means also that hes in charge of McGuyvering himself out of various near-death situations, and the set-up and resolution of these events does become a little samey-samey after the first couple of times. Because theres no one around for Alex to really engage with, we see very little emotional response from him (ho hum, my uncles dead, chaps), and its hard to really empathise with himor feel that hes ever really in danger. So much of that tension, after all, arises from the way that other characters respond to dangerous situations.

Although there is a reasonably large cast of secondary characters slinking around in the background its hard to ignore the pall of stereotyping thats been cast over them. We have brutal Russian assassins, cruel and humourless Germans, a squat and fat bad guy from Beirut, and two MI6 operatives who fall fairly blatantly along traditional gender linesthe inscrutable, stoic male and the maternal, concerned female (one of three, from memory, females in the whole book). Its not hard to see that Horowitz is taking his cues from James Bond, but it wouldnt hurt to keep abreast of social developments, surely.

However, even though I have my qualms about certain elements of the book (I havent even touched the plot here, but lets just say, 14-year-old boy, MI6 and evil via school computers, shall we?), it is overall zingy, action-packed fun, and it would be remiss of me to tear apart the book for being pretty much what it professes to be from the get-go. Its silly, its over the top, and it contains enough action and intrigue that Im sure there are a bunch of kids out there secretly hoping for their door buzzer to ring in the middle of the night.'

Rating: star Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitzstar Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitzhalfstar Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitzblankstar Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitzblankstar Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz (not bad)

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Other books by Anthony Horowitz:

Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz Review: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz


  1. Good review! I listened to Stormbreaker on audio several years ago and never went on with the Alex Rider series, figuring the later books would be more of the same enjoyable entertainment but not to my taste. I prefer the authors fantasy/SF series, The Gatekeepers, and I just see now that the fifth book, Oblivion, is finally coming out in April!

    • Im sure I read some of his other stuff when I was in late primary school/early high school, but I cant remember what for the life of me!

      I have the rest of the Alex Rider books (I picked up the box set on discount), and will give the next few a shot. I didnt mind it, but it just wasnt really my thing. Oddly enough, my husband (who usually loves these sorts of books) didnt get into it, either.

  2. Janet Schneider /

    These days for me the Alex Rider that comes to mind is the one played by Alex Pettyfer in the moviewho grew up to become a professional stripper in Magic Mike;)