Scorpia is the fifth book in the Alex Rider teenage spy series by Anthony Horowitz, of which Storm Breaker was the first. You can find them all reviewed on this blog site should you wish to check out the previous four adventures in the series.
Some adventure series are fine to read as standalone novels, but in this series, an overarching plot line, which tells the reader details about Alex’s past and how that affects the decisions he makes in each book, mean that it is a much more rewarding experience to read these books in sequence.
In this adventure, Alex is acting on information given to him by a Russian assassin in his last adventure (Eagle Strike), and goes to Venice to try and unearth the truth about his father.
The story follows much the same format as one of Ian Fleming’s original Bond stories, and Alex Rider is clearly a modern, up to date version of teen Bond. Although in these books the love interest is played down, as are the grown up Bond’s other bad habits. There is though, the constant stream of expensive, high speed vehicles; heady, adrenalin fuelled chase scenes and a fair amount of improbable globe trotting. Like Bond, Alex is also a lonely figure, a stranger in much of his own life, who finds it difficult to make and keep friends, and is gradually finding his trust in other human beings eroded as he discovers the terrible things his enemies are prepared to do to him and others.
The series gets progressively darker as Alex grows up, and as he discovers more about his past, and what his future might be. There is a little more introspection in this volume, which I liked. There was a certain element of enjoyment in the earlier books which is giving way to something more realistic and dark in these later volumes.
It is a book for boys, squarely aimed at boys, with very few female characters, and the ones that are are basically men in all but clothing. I enjoy them, and older girls who are definitely not pink and frilly might, but if you’re not a fan of espionage and thrills, the books won’t work at all.
There is a fair amount of violence and quite a high body count, particularly in this book. There is also quite a disturbing plot by Alex’s enemies which wouldn’t suit younger readers. Recommended for eleven to fourteen year olds ideally, although younger children with a good reading age and strong emotional maturity would also enjoy these books.