A teenager seeking answers in the wake of his mother’s disappearance is drawn into a shadowy world of assassins, espionage and over-the-top adventure in Rider’s debut YA novel.
Fourteen-year-old Ryan Knight has had a rough go of it. Emotionally neglected by his scientist parents, he lives life on the fringes: lonely, angry, an easy target of neighborhood bullies. His Krav Maga and parkour training help him when he needs it: “I didn’t go looking for trouble,” he explains, “but I hated it when someone preyed on a weaker person.” It’s just that mindset that propels him into the adventure of a lifetime. When his mother goes missing on a medical expedition along the India-Nepal border, Ryan fears she’s the victim of a freak accident—until he comes across her last diary entry: “I fear that they have found out what I am trying to do,” she wrote.“I don’t know how to expose them.” All signs of misconduct point to her employer, the colossal Silvanus Corporation. At its helm is the mustache-twirling Zoltan Kashlar, just one player in a larger group that answers to the mysterious Mr. North. With the help of twins Lily and Poppy (both of whom harbor crushes on Ryan), computer-savvy Pete and Bornean native Ong, Ryan takes retribution into his own hands. Although the kids may be archetypes, their true-to-life emotions and dialogue make them living, breathing characters worth caring for. Ryan constantly draws upon his sense of humor to best his adversaries (one of his plans, for example, involves a laxative), and this makes him even more endearing. Although inconsistent shifts in perspective make for a somewhat disjointed reading experience, most teen readers will be too enthralled with Ryan’s adventures—outsmarting assassins in the Bornean jungle, landing pilotless passenger jets and unraveling global conspiracies—to take much notice. The late introduction of Virgil Lante, a billionaire philanthropist who wants to recruit Ryan to his HERO (Help Earth Retaliate Organisation) Academy, hints at a sequel that will plunge readers more deeply into the Silvanus Corporation’s secrets.
A thrilling, environmentally conscious romp in the tradition of Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider and the young Indiana Jones.