Book Review: Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz
By Saumya Vinay Sawant
In the book, “Eagle Strike,” by Anthony Horowitz, the espionage-adventure style Alex Rider Series continues on an explosive (pun intended) note. In this book, we follow along with Alex, a 14-year-old British Schoolboy blackmailed into working for MI6, as he tries to enjoy a vacation with one of his friends, a Sabina Pleasure whom he met at Wimbledon. With the appearance of Yassen Gregorovich, an assassin who may or may not have a hidden agenda and who Alex has some kind of weird connection to (and who also killed Alex’s uncle, which is another important detail to keep in mind), Alex realizes that once again, trouble may have found him. Determinedly, he tries to continue enjoying his vacation the best that he can, but with Alex, he can never stay more than a few weeks away from trouble of some kind. In this case, it’s when Sabina’s dad, Mr. Pleasure is attacked and nearly killed, that Alex realizes that this may be a job for him after all.
The author’s main theme here is basically that if you’re nosy, you might end up dying, but if you’re nosy and sneaky about it, then you’ll end up saving the world. I personally agree with this message, but that might just be my bias, so read the book and see if you agree with me. The author does an excellent job of getting this across by having Alex escape death by the skin of his teeth. Yassen, who is portrayed to be one of the antagonists, also enforces this message in through ways that are only more questionable than MI6’s methods of getting Alex to work for them. For example, Yassen’s brilliant idea of teaching Alex a ‘lesson’ is to throw him into a bullring to get gored. This is just minutes after he talks about how he “doesn’t kill children” and that he can “never kill Alex.” MI6, who aren’t supposed to be the antagonists, but are just as bad as certain murderous Russian assassins, doesn’t believe Alex when he tells them there’s something suspicious going on. This is ironic, considering that they’re generally the ones who drag them into their messes, and now when Alex does the same exact thing, they immediately dust their hands off the entire mess. Damian Cray, the primary antagonist (you know it’s a great book when there’s not one, not two, but three antagonists) is no better; he tries to get Alex killed in an immersive video game.
Anthony Horowitz has always been an expert in writing fast-paced action and thrill. However, his skill is truly seen in this book, considered to be one of the pinnacles of the Alex Rider series. As previously mentioned, there’s one memorable moment in which Alex is forced to fight a bull, at the behest (and by behest, I mean by gunpoint) of Yassen. In another equally thrilling moment, he is nearly gunned down trying to find out why Damian Cray was being investigated by Mr. Pleasure. With tight, meaningful writing, we as the reader are alongside Alex in each of the death-defying stunts he pulls.
The plot of this story is also pretty good, though I’d say other books (“Scorpia” and “Snakehead” particularly) have stronger plots, so this ranks second to the action aspect of things. The dialogue (on Alex’s part, at least, as well as Yassen’s) is another keystone highlight of the story. Alex has a penchant for sarcasm that even the villains probably laugh about later (when they’re not trying to kill him), and Yassen is, put simply, a drama queen. Mr. Cray, however, holds the ultimate candle when it comes to drama-in the classic cliché “villain monologues, hero listens,” Mr. Cray delivers quiet the speech to a scared (but ultimately, bored) Alex.
Mr. Horowitz’s characterization is a bit more hit-or-miss. The characters of Alex and Yassen are thoroughly explored and developed, but other more minor characters are one-dimensional and flat. However, the strength of his action scenes is stronger than the (sometimes) weakness of his characters, and so, I’d say that it shouldn’t stop you from reading this truly excellent book (as well as the entire series).