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Silverfin

A James Bond Adventure

by Charlie Higson

Silverfin by Charlie Higson X
Silverfin by Charlie Higson
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2005, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 368 pages

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Young Bond - for ages 10+

From the book jacket: What does it take to become the greatest secret agent the world has ever known? In this thrilling prequel to the adventure of James Bond, 007, readers meet a young boy whose inquisitive mind and determination set him on a path that will someday take him across the globe, in pursuit of the most dangerous criminals of all time. When we first meet young James, he's just started boarding school at Eton in the 1930’s, and from there, the action moves to the Highlands of Scotland, where Alfie Kelly, a local boy, has gone missing. James teams up with the boy’s cousin, Red, to investigate the mystery, and they soon discover that Alfie’s disappearance is linked to a madman and his sinister plot for global power.

Comment: Silverfin, the first in a planned 5 part series, has received relatively poor media reveiws. A number comment that there isn't enough of the adult bond in the 13 year old James. To that I say, what a relief! I don't think I could have put up with a thirteen-year-old who was that smooth and self-assured. The young Bond is an orphan who doesn't follow the crowd and is more than comfortable spending time alone, but equally he knows a good friend when he sees one and sticks by the ones he makes; he's an exceptional athlete in some areas and speaks multiple languages, but has never thought of these as talents to be proud of. The bottom line is he's an all round nice, unassuming sort of chap, and thoughtful to boot.

Many reviewers draw the obvious comparison to Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, and conclude that the Young Bond series is the lesser of the two. As it happens, I'm reading the latest in this series, (Ark Angel, due out later this month) to the children at the moment, and there's no doubt that, page for page, there's more action in Ark Angel than in Silverfin, but that's comparing a book in an already established series, with the first in a series - where character development needs to be balanced with action.

At heart, I think the main issue for most reviewers is the simple fact that Bond is an icon - as one reviewer explains, to him the concept of a young Bond is an anathema in itself as James Bond is essentially a literary synonym for adult fantasy, so who would want to read a 'watered-down' children's version?

That's a valid point of view, but it's an adult point of view. In the UK, where Silverfin was first published, it was sufficiently popular amongst pre-teens and early teens to hit the bestseller lists - so it would seem that the target audience like it!

I think that, like the Harry Potter series, the Young Bond books will get progressively darker. Indeed, even in this first book, the action heats up no end from the school boy yarn of the first half to the action adventure of the second half! So, bottom line, I enjoyed this opening book in the series - I'm not a Bond expert by any means but I have read most of the books at some time or another and, to my mind, Charlie Higson's young Bond compliments Fleming's adult Bond (except for a few tiny details such as that Bond spent very little time at Eton - according to Fleming's books, he left under a cloud after less than a year and completed his schooling at Fettes, a school in Scotland!)

So how did James become the Bond of the fast cars, faster women, and shaken not stirred martinis? This first book lays the groundwork for his transformation from cautious boy to 007. To find out how, you'll just have to read it!

This review first ran in the April 7, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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