Chang’s debut YA adventure follows a teenage boy caught between two competing intelligence agencies: one wishing to recruit him, and the other seemingly intent on killing him.
Nathan Doyle is just a typical 14-year-old, living with his Aunt Veinna in central London, until the day he follows a suspicious man in black. Nathan finds out that he and a group of other men have, for some unknown reason, been spying on him. The teen narrowly evades them, and later, with the help of agents of the International Intelligence Organization, dodges an apparent assassination attempt. It turns out that the Ventures, a criminal organization, has targeted the boy—possibly because they want his pendant, a posthumous gift from his parents who died in a train wreck years ago. When the Ventures abduct Veinna, the IIO tells Nathan that it will safely recover his aunt if he completes a mission at an underwater research center in Japan. Chang, who’s only a year older than his protagonist, knows how to generate action scenes: At one point, Nathan is traveling to a swimming tournament in Edinburgh when an explosion derails the train he’s on and bullets start flying. Nathan knows some taekwondo, which makes him a formidable opponent, but he’s also believable, and not immune to injuries—or torture. The entertaining story turns its hero into a young James Bond, equipping him with gadgets such as a watch that can hack security doors and an ink pen filled with liquid oxygen. The narrative has a notable espionage angle, with IIO agents that don’t always tell Nathan the whole truth. The best scenes, however, are when Nathan uses his youth to his advantage, as when he sheds faux tears to garner a baddie’s sympathy and effect an escape. The book does have its share of grammatical errors, which often prove distracting (“[H]e…covered himself, minimizing his body size by curling into a ball with head close to tight”), but they don’t make the story any less enjoyable. The ending will leave more than a few readers eagerly awaiting a sequel.
An engaging spy novel by a young author who boasts the skill and maturity of a seasoned veteran.