Strong characters have been central to the success of Muchamore’s highly popular ‘CHERUB’ series. Its child protagonists are reliant upon their own wit and skill rather than being imbued with extraordinary powers. Accordingly, successful completion of missions is reliant upon their working together as a team, each becoming a constituent part of an effective whole.
An adrenaline-pumping opening in which James takes part in a riot organised by the Street Action Group sets the tone for this tenth novel. Ten CHERUB agents are sent to Las Vegas, the site of one of the largest urban warfare training complexes in the world.
A wargames style battle between American and British contingents soon ensues, replete with tactical manoeuvres and dirty tricks. In the thick of a direct attack against James, he makes the unusual decision to play poker and test his gambling prowess. The plausibility arising from the fact that the group have been engaged with situations that feel real within the series, has staved off some of the cliché that typifies the genre. It is disappointing therefore that it here reverts to more stereotypical fare. The plot, whilst effective in itself, shifts the focus that Muchamore has successfully leveraged in previous books from the characters themselves to a plot with strands that feel all too familiar. However, although it delivers less in characterisation, its plotting and pace are guaranteed to deliver on thrills and spills.