Being a huge fan of Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock and Lost Worlds books, I was delighted to discover Agent Without Licence, the first in his new AWOL series.
Kieron, a teenage boy, is visiting the local shopping mall with his friend Sam, when they witness a man being violently abducted by a pair of thugs. The victim leaves behind what initially appears to be a pair of sunglasses and a wireless earpiece but, on closer inspection, is an extremely high tech virtual reality kit. After managing to get the equipment working, they unwittingly make contact with Bex, a secret agent on a mission in India, and quickly realise that they have stumbled upon a scheme involving an extremist political organisation with grand plans to wreak havoc upon the world.
This book has a lot of parallels with the CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore and the Young Bond books by Charlie Higson and Steve Cole. The fact that Andrew Lane used to work for the Ministry of Defence gives his writing an extra level of authenticity, especially when describing the numerous high tech gadgets that appear throughout. With the main characters quickly becoming aware that they are in way over their heads, the energy and pace is relentless right through the book. The slightly awkward relationship between Kieron and Bex gives the characters an extra of believability and the fact that they don’t meet in person until near the end, with the action being divided between northern England and Mumbai in India, also adds to the drama.
I thoroughly enjoyed this as, in common with Andrew’s other books, it’s cleverly plotted with a clear sense of direction. It also draws on current tensions and political situations across the world. Agent Without Licence is intended to be the first of a series, with book two, Last Safe Moment, due to be published towards the end of 2018. The content is probably suited to the lower end of Key Stage Three. It could also be enjoyed by children in Year Six, although I’d suggest reading it first.