Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Sword of Damocles - Brian Bern

A copy was provided by the Author
in exchange for
an honest review.
Sword of Damocles by Brian Bern
Series: Cade Knight #1
Genre: YA, action
Published on September 10, 2013
Published by CreateSpace
Pages: 243
Read From: 1.29.14 - 2.1.14

Cade helped his father design the J-Phone, the most significant invention in the history of spy craft - complete with Eavesdropper, Impersonator, and Hacker apps. Together, he and his father customized a J-Phone for the president of the United States, enabling him to launch nuclear weapons from the Nuclear Football app. 
Too bad the J-Phone falls into the wrong hands, and enemy agents hunt for those who know how ti use it. When family members begin to fall off the grid, Cade and his butt-kicking twin sister call on years of training to identify and infiltrate the opposition. They must rescue their mother, retrieve the J-Phone, and reunite the family. 
Failure could cost one life or a hundred million.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes, I like it. Very spy-ish, action-y, and attention-grabbing. It also doesn't make it look like a self-published novel. I could easily see this on store shelves.

Characters: Cade and Brooke are two very resourceful, quick-thinking, and intelligent teen protagonists. I was happy to find that I never got frustrated with them for being too slow or making bad decisions that ultimately resulted in a situation that could have totally be avoided if they had just paid attention. Evan, their friend, is also a great secondary character, who tags along in Cade and Brooke's quest for answers with few questions - just like a good friend. I can't say that the villain was all that terrifying. While realistic enough, he lacked the ingenuity and malice that is so characteristic of spy novel villains. Yes, I am actually complaining about the lack of cliche. But I won't hold it against the book. :-)

The Romance: There isn't any! Well, not really. Cade has a crush on Brooke's friend, and Brooke has a crush of Evan, but it's just barely mentioned.

Plot: Cade and Brooke's parents work for the government - more specifically, the secret and special branches of the government. Cade's father develops new technology for spies, and Cade often helps him with it. One little invention they're both proud of is the J-Phone - especially the one specifically developed for the President of the United States. It has an app that allows the President to initiate a nuclear attack at just the press of a few buttons. But things go horribly wrong when the J-Phone goes missing, Cade and Brooke's parents vanish off the grid, and unmarked cars and people start chasing after them. Cade and Brooke need to find the J-Phone and rescue their parents before it's too late. From the beginning, the Reader knows who has stolen the J-Phone and pretty much everything that the villain is doing, so there aren't all that many twists going on. I was a little disappointed with this, because it made me lose interest in Cade and Brooke's quest for answers. While they are in the dark, we Readers aren't, and it gets a little slow reading about their plans to get evidence. We know who has their mom, we know who has the J-Phone, and we know pretty much what they're planning to do with it. That said, it isn't a bad plot. The J-Phone sounded kind of silly at first, when I read the synopsis, but it's actually a pretty neat little gadget, and the plot is rather believable. There's car chases and spying; evasion and clever techie stuff. Before Cade and Brooke really bunker down and start planning what to do next; when they're still totally on the run with no safe places, there were lots of moments when my adrenaline was up. I only wish there had been a bit more mystery behind what was going on.

Believability: The only plausible flaw that kept nagging at me was the fact that Cade and Brooke knew so much about what their parents did. Not only that, but Cade was actually involved in a lot of his dad's projects. It didn't ring as entirely believable to me.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. There were actually very few typos and grammatical errors; I counted roughly five or seven very minor flaws. At times, the narration did get bogged down with too much technical details, though that is only to be expected in a spy novel. But the one thing I truly have to applaud the Author for is his ability to write car chasing scenes. These are not easy to convey on paper without it 1)dragging and 2)getting confusing. There was none of that.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The climax is blessedly short, and I mean that as a compliment. Normally, climaxes in action novels are dragged out for far too long, but the Author sticks with exciting, yet a reasonable length, creating even more suspense than if he had prolonged it. And he also keeps us in the dark about Cade's plans, so there's some mystery finally creeping in. Sword of Damocles isn't quite Alex Rider. But it is a lot of fun. We have intelligent protagonists, a plausible plot, fun gadgets (that are also plausible), and an Author who knows how to write action scenes without getting in too deep. Despite its minor flaws, I definitely think its pros outweigh them.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, thirteen-and-up, great for fans of Alex Rider and Young James Bond.

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