Saturday 15 September 2012

Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel (CHERUB) Guardian Angel (CHERUB) by Robert Muchamore (Hodder/Hachette)
HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781444912777
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

This is the second book in the second series of CHERUB, written by a London-based author who was a private investigator prior to becoming a best selling children’s author. CHERUB is a branch of British Intelligence whose agents are children between the ages of ten and seventeen. Recruited mainly from orphanages and care situations, the children (and younger siblings) live on a campus with a huge staff to educate and train them to become agents. This only happens if they pass a 100 day test of endurance and self reliance.

The story opens with ten-year-old twins Leon and Daniel Sharma and Fu Ning, a twelve-year old Chinese girl, the only ones left standing out of twelve kids on the latest training course. In reality, the training would no doubt be identified as child abuse, but here the kids are keen to pass the test and are willing to suffer vicious punishment in the process. To fail would result in having do the test all over again. They desperately want to wear the grey CHERUB T-shirts which means they are qualified for missions.

In Russia, Ethan Aramov, grandson of the matriarch of the Aramov Clan, Irena Aramov, has joined the family who live at the Kremlin. The Clan runs a billion-dollar crime empire which CHERUB is bent on destroying, utilizing the friendship between Ethan and Ryan Sharma, brother of the twins. Ethan is wary of his uncle Leonid whom he suspects murdered his mother in California. Ryan saved Ethan's life at the time, and is now regarded by him as his guardian angel. He keeps in touch with Ryan via email. This is in violation of the Aramov rules which forbid contact with people from the past. He pays dearly at the hands of Leonid and his cousin, Boris when they discover he has used the off-limits computer. He feels only his grandmother's presence is keeping him alive.

When CHERUB discovers Ethan will be sent to a school in Dubai, Ning and a mate of Ryan's, Max, are sent to board at the same school and befriend Ethan. But Ethan never arrives at the school. Ryan, whose mission is to destroy the Aramov Clan, is seriously concerned.

Ethan's situation keeps the reader glued to the page, the fast moving plot is rivetting and undoubtedly shows the skill of the author. However, once again I am disappointed in the content of the CHERUB stories with its violence, coarse language and sexual reference. Much of it seems entirely inappropriate for the age group 10-13 year olds, and as the main protagonist, Ryan will be fourteen in the final book in the series, I am concerned these levels will increase. The tag NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER READERS found on the back cover is important for discerning parents aware of the influence of the written word.  

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