The Sultan's Tigers by Josh Lacey

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The Sultan's Tigers by Josh Lacey

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: In which two heroes are successfully cast adrift in India on the madcap chase for a secreted family heirloom.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Andersen
ISBN: 9781849394543

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Tom's dad is the black sheep of the family – the only one who isn't a thieving adventurer and dishonest chancer. Tom's granddad was like that, but has just died. Tom's uncle tends that way – and even Tom himself learnt the benefits of such a life in the first book in the series. With the passing of the granddad, Tom is alone in the empty house when a desperate burglar implies a family secret is worth a lot of money – which leads to Tom and Uncle Harvey disappearing tout suite to India on the trail of treasure. Out of eight gem-encrusted tiger statuettes, seven have been bought by the same oligarch – but the eighth was hidden by one of Tom's ancestors, and might be there still, and they might be first to the priceless object – but they are not the only people on the treasure hunt…

This adventure for the under-13s reads ridiculously quick at times. The pace is thrusting the heroes into the action pell mell, the dialogue is given in really snappy sound-bites with no adjectives or attributing comments and the very dilemma of whether Tom should abandon his parents and gallivant around criminal-style considering what happened last time is only the start of his problems.

The book does have problems in that the author clearly has been to India, or researched it very well, and wants us to know it. Stomach problems, dodgy taxi-driver problems, and at times vivid descriptions almost interrupt the flow built up elsewhere with an almost Reithian edutainment style. They may serve to delay some reveals, but just as the author's Grk books under his other name of Joshua Doder love to be fully immersed in a foreign country, so does this. And yes, colourful India is a fresh and novel place for a young boy's adventures (I say that more for Tom's presence – this book surely is of appeal to both genders equally), but Lacey does seem to labour the benefits of his surroundings at times.

That said, the race-against-time, treasure hunt scenario fits perfectly into the pages here – there is not too much filler when all is said and done, and the pacey drama is conveyed with the clear, concise, rapid telling I've mentioned. And the quality of the writing manages, despite filling India in with such colour and quite a few secondary characters, to really isolate the heroes, so that you certainly feel Tom and Harvey are up against it. With a realistic sense of threat, and attitude to violence, this gives the book its more compelling edge, and makes it an adventure worth your attention.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The author has still yet to best his Bearkeeper novel. The City of Spirits by Paul Bajoria has two children going to the subcontinent for an inheritance, as historical fiction.

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