When James Choke's mother dies, it looks as though he's on the fast track to a young offender's institution. It seems as though luck is on his side, however, when he is recruited into CHERUB, a secret branch of the government that trains and uses children as spies.The Recruit
covers James's induction into CHERUB and also his first major mission with the CHERUB organisation.
A reviewer for the Sunday Express
says that The Recruit
is 'punchy, exciting, glamorous and, what's more, you'll completely with it was true.' When I was a child, definitely! I would have loved to be recruited by CHERUB and have been a secret agent and saved the world, even though I was not a particularly athletic child. Now, however, maybe not so much. On principle, I'm against the idea of children being sent into potentially dangerous situations in this way. That said, I love the premise of the CHERUB series, and it certainly makes for an exciting read.
One of the best thing about The Recruit
is the way that CHERUB feels real, as though it actually exists. Robert Muchamore does a very good job in exploring the history and mechanics of CHERUB, through the founding of Henderson's Boys to the significance of the different coloured CHERUB shirts. There's even a timeline in the back! I love when an author takes time to think about how their story would impact the wider world outside it, and how it would fit into society as we know it today. It makes it so much nicer to read the story, without being jolted back to the real world every so often with a 'wait, that would never happen...'
The only thing I found hard to believe was the basic training. It was so
harsh that I can barely believe those kids made it through alive and without catching hypothermia. I understand it's meant to be preparing the kids for anything the world can throw at them, but I found some bits a little too much.
The writing itself is technically good, fast paced and action packed with a varied vocabularly. In some parts, however, I felt as though the story moved too fast, ending scenes too early or skipping over scenes I wanted to see in a lot more detail. This, for me, is the reason the book did not get the full five stars. This might be just personal preference, and the breakneck pace might be really good for reluctant readers and action fans.
The fast pace allowed Muchamore to fit in a lot
of plot into one book. In my opinion, he could have easily stretched The Recruit
out into two books - one covering James's recruitment and one covering his first mission. However, I liked that it all fit into one, as it meant that the book was never boring and allowed everything to feel more urgent. I still wish he had taken his time over some of the scenes, but all in all the pace was good.
The final mission, in a similar point, kind of fizzled out. This is perhaps because of the fact there was a lot to fit into one book, but I don't think that this was necessarily a bad thing. CHERUB put a lot of emphasis on the kids' safety, so it wouldn't have made sense for there to be a big dramatic conclusion where James took down the bad guys single handedly. Not that the end was boring, not by a long shot. It was still exciting, but there was quite a bit of room to explore some moral issues that aren't really touched on in books like this. James was unsure whether he had done the right thing, and the answer wasn't clear or straightforward. Morality often isn't.
I loved James's character. He comes across exactly as an 11/12 year old boy should come across. It would have been really easy to make James a lot more mature than his age, but Muchamore doesn't fall into that trap. My favourite bits of James's character is when he is examining himself in the mirror, looking at his scabs and bruises, and thinking how 'hard' he looks. I thought that was great. I also loved his confusion about girls - you can really tell he hasn't spent much time around girls other than his little sister.
Speaking of Lauren, it really annoyed me how smoothly everything with her worked out, especially when she was recruited into CHERUB as well. It was too easy, and ruined the potential for a lot of tension in future books.
Aside from Lauren, I loved the secondary characters. They were so colourful, though a lot of the adults seemed to do a hell of a lot of shouting. I really loved Kyle and Kerry and I hope they continue to be important in later books.
All in all, I really enjoyed The Recruit
and will be reading later novels in the series. I also plan on reading the prequel series, Henderson's Boys
, and the subsequent CHERUB series. I love the world building that
much. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced, action packed read, especially for reluctant readers. This series got my brother back into reading again, so hopefully it can do so for others. Also, if you ever thought that being a spy would be really, really cool, this is for you. :)