This is book 6 in Muchamore's Henderson's Boys series. You could read this book as a stand alone book, but I wouldn't recommend it. On it's own this would be very good book. Taken as part of the series it is a truly exceptional book and one of the best pieces of modern fiction I have read. This is because the series as a whole allows for a great deal of character development, and jumping in towards the end you would miss some of this, and well as some of the background information on the story.
This book begins with Rosie dropping into occupied France. Muchamore started writing for boys, but the strength of his female characters is amazing, making this a perfect book for girls who want a story with something more than vampires and snogging. Rosie is wonderfully crafted character who breaks traditional female stereotypes. Rosie's mission doesn't go to plan but she soon finds herself in possession of notebook with details of a new weapon that may turn the tide of the war back in Hitler's favour. This may be CHERUB's most important mission to date. As soon as the details of this notebook come to light, Marc, Luc, Paul and Sam begin training as snipers in a nasty contest between the youngsters to see who will be chosen for the mission. Henderson will be going as well and we will see old friends from previous volumes as well as a few new ones, but I will keep the details limited to avoid any chance of spoilers. I will only add one small fact - the weapon featured in ths book is not fictional, it was being developed by the Nazi's at this time.
This book is written in Muchamore's usual fast moving high action style. There are no lulls in this book - or good places to stop reading for the night - meaning I had to finish it the first night. There is constant suspense and action, but there is an extremely well developed overall plot as well - it isn't just a shoot em up. Once again I was impressed by Muchamore's ability to add dimension even to the minor characters. The terror of French civilians who were not involved in the fighting is well portrayed - as is the suffering of innocent people caught up in horrible situations. The Gestapo are very much your typical villains, but many of the German soldiers are portrayed as decent people. I like the fact that Muchamore doesn't make every German in a caricature villain.
Robert Muchamore is best known for his CHERUB series. I think his CHERUB books are excellent, and own everyone of them, but the Henderson's Boys series are the books that started me reading Muchamore's books and in my opinion they are his best work. If you have enjoyed the CHERUB series - all the more reason to read this series and find out how CHERUB started. I am most clearly not in Muchamore's target audience, but I feel this series defies titles like "Young Adult". I can see the appeal of this series for teenagers, but I think these stories could appeal just as much to "old adults" such as myself as to youngsters. It isn't often you come across a series with such well developed a characters and an well written plot anymore, Muchamore's work rates among the best fiction of modern times - for children or adults.
I bought my first Muchamore book to see if it would be suitable for my son, age 7. He liked Alex Rider and the Young James Bond so this was a natural choice. The back label does say not suitable for younger readers, and throughout the series there are a few incidents that I feel are a bit mature for a 7 year old child, but the main reason I haven't given this to my son is that I feel the storyline is a bit to. complex to interest him - and at the moment he prefers graphic novels. I think he will get a lot more out of these books in a few years time. Some issues have been made about the language in Muchamore's books - he does use the odd curse word but it is well keeping with the story, and it is not frequent or overdone. There is violence - but I can't imagine a wartime adventure without violence. I find Muchamore's books a very positive influence on young people and would be quite happy for my sons to read them when they are old enough. My son has enjoyed Muchamore's 1st graphic novel and I hope it will be the first of many. Muchamore's books are the type of book to make boys really want to read - and perhaps to learn about history - but their appeal is not limited to the target audience.
If parents do feel any concern about this book appropriateness for their children - I can only say - read it yourself. Not only are you likely to change your mind about your child reading this - but you may well become hooked on the series yourself.