(Cover picture courtesy of Harford County Public Library.)
They murdered his parents. They shot him and left him for dead. And yet Alex Rider thought he was finished with the terrorist organization known as Scorpia. He was wrong. Back, and more dangerous than ever, Scorpia is working with ruthless gangs operating across Southeast Asia. Known as snakeheads, the gangs smuggle drugs, weapons, and, worst of all, people. When the Australian Secret Service asks Alex to infiltrate one of the gangs, Alex accepts for one reason only: to work with the godfather he never knew existed in hopes of learning more about his parents. What he uncovers, though, is a secret that will make this his darkest and most dangerous mission to date.
What is the saddest thing of all?
Wasted talent, of course.
Perhaps I’m getting emotional because I’m watching the last act of Aida as I write this, but the Alex Rider series makes me kind of sad. Anthony Horowitz is an absolutely amazing writer—he can create breath-stopping suspense and throw in some truly unexpected plot twists, but he is wasting this talent on a cliché series. Sure, Alex has a bit more depth by now, but he is still a cardboard cutout. And yes, the plot of Snakehead is exciting, but the ending is predictable: Alex saves the world yet again. The only thing I truly love about this series is the fact that kids who have never read before are discovering the joy of reading, which is something that lasts a lifetime.
The plot of Snakehead is fairly predictable, but there are occasional plot twists, especially at the end. You know that Alex saves the world, but this is another case where the journey is more interesting than the destination. Of course Anthony Horowitz keeps things moving along with his perfect way of balancing dialogue and description. He also informs readers about how horrible smuggled refugees have it, especially when they travel by ship.
Alex isn’t a complete cardboard cutout by Snakehead, but neither is he an exemplary character. He is still far too perfect for a fourteen year old boy, even if his uncle did train him all his life to be a spy. Meeting Ash, his godfather, gives him a lot more depth, but he’s pretty much back to the same old Alex by the end of the novel.
I give this book 3/5 stars.