Haden Akatine has lost everything. His family, his home, his community have been wiped out by the evil Sardar, ‘a breed of men who had a heartless disregard for life’ under the command of their tyrant lord, Dasmed Usshien. The only other person left alive is the mute, Decker. Revenge is now Haden’s quest, and together the two set off to reach the Sardar stronghold, Ghadra. They are unaware that they are travelling towards even greater danger. In Ghadra, the sciencer, Pero Esquabar and his assistant, Mowler have just put the finishing touches to a weapon that in the hands of Usshien will pose the ultimate threat.
This is not a book to read slowly or reflect on too deeply. Like the Western, from which it draws many of its themes, action is everything and there is little room for shades of grey. The characters will be recognisable to young readers familiar with film and computer games: the young hero driven by grief and his desire for revenge; the evil tyrant; the bumbling scientist – and the comic relief of a parrot with an uncanny ability to mimic speech. Contemporary prose, colloquial dialogue and minimal description help move the action along. However, by framing his narrative as a story within a story, Marks adds his own touch to a standard format, allowing him to introduce a neat twist at the end. This book is aimed at good readers at the top of KS2 and would sit well in any secondary school library.