|The Last of the Warrior Kings by Sarah Mussi|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Edge of the seat stuff with this fine political chase novel. It blends historical detail, political comment and wry humour into the tense and pacy chase narrative. Great stuff.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: April 2008|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Any book dedicated to Bernie Grant gets a one Bookbag star headstart from me before I've even opened the cover. The late (great) MP for Tottenham gets the shout out in Last of the Warrior Kings thanks to his campaigning for the return of the Benin Bronzes - about which this versatile and interesting thriller revolves.
On a snowy evening in South London, Max Wolf and his brother Angelo see infamous rapper Mogul King run into trouble. He's out of his patch and a rival gang are chasing him. Minutes before he's shot, King presses a mysterious package into Max's hands and makes him promise - but promise what? The parcel contains an ancient bronze dagger. But what King wanted done with it is a complete mystery to Max. And within hours, it's pretty much ceased to matter. Mogul King isn't the only one lying dead from gunshot wounds. Angelo is shot and killed that very evening and Max finds himself on the run from the shadowy More Dread Crew, aided only by his brother's girlfriend Sapphire and his posh friend Roland.
Nothing is as it seems. What have government secret services got to do with the More Dread Crew? Is Max's mother's death, some months before, related? What is the dagger's secret message? And how does it tie in with the rest of the Benin Bronzes, looted from Nigeria by colonial forces in the Punitive Expedition of 1897?
Ooh. This is a marvellous book. It's a thriller come chase novel first and foremost, and it's real edge of the seat stuff as Max and his two friends try desperately to evade some very unpleasant - and powerful - conspirators. It's also partly an historical novel, with journal entries from one Hugh Hardy, a gunner with the Punitive Expedition forces, offsetting the main narrative. Intertwined is some pithy political comment on post-colonialism and the looting of Africa by the British. Underpinning it all is an astonishingly accurate portrait of urban youth and in particular a wonderfully sympathetic study of one immature and self-obsessed teenaged boy who finds himself in a most dreadful pickle and has to grow up pretty quickly.
Max is marvellous. I won't forget him in a hurry. He's bright and bouncy and full of confidence... until things go wrong. And then he really doesn't know what he's doing. Most of the time it's only his swagger that's keeping him going. But he never gives up, even when he discovers that his family considered him too immature to entrust with dangerous secrets. He has a crush on Sapphire, and is undaunted no matter how many times she knocks him back. Gradually, he begins to realise that gang culture and branded clothes aren't the only things in life and when he does, he shows courage beyond any possible call of duty. He's one of the most sharply-observed teenage characters I've come across in a long time.
This is an unusual thriller. And it's also an absolutely super-duper one. It didn't need the Bernie Grant one star headstart that it got; it managed perfectly well all by itself. Heartily recommended.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
If they like the sound of the The Last of the Warrior Kings, they might also enjoy Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the Warrior Kings by Sarah Mussi at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the Warrior Kings by Sarah Mussi at Amazon.com.
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