Review Blog

Jul 24 2009

By Royal Command by Charlie Higson

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Puffin, 2009.
(Ages 11+) Recommended. The fifth in the series, Young James Bond, sees James rescue one of his schoolmates from certain death on the slopes of the Austrian Alps, where Miles, an arrogant and disliked young man, falls after drinking before skiing. James puts himself at incredible risk to rescue him, and when the two are hospitalized, James sees something he perhaps shouldn't have, a raving von Schlick prior to surgery. It is a few years before World War 2, and Higson includes the future king of England, Edward and Wallis Simpson along with some nasty Communist spies and Nazis to mix together an amazingly readable plot. James sees von Schlik again in Miles' home, when his parents thank James for rescuing their son. Following him amongst the hallways, he stumbles upon Edward and Mrs Simpson, who are then joined by von Schlik and several other men. The conversation turns to the sympathy shown by Edward towards Hitler, and the downturn of Britain's fortunes. James leaves and taking his aunt on a tour of the school for King George's birthday, realises that the huge load of garden fertilizer delivered to the school the day before, could be used as a bomb to kill the king, Edward's brother. Sure to be a hit with middle school readers By Royal Command has all the elements of a gripping read. James is involved in a life and death plot, one which could change the course of history. His cunning and skills save the day of course, and along the way the brutes from his school get their just deserts. The episodes where James is abused at the hand of the older boy at school are tough to read, and recall Tom Brown's Schooldays and others in exposing the stupidity of the class system, and the lessons he learns from his experiences there certainly underpin the morality of the spy, James Bond in Ian Fleming's stories.
Fran Knight

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