Eagle Strike By Anthony Horowitz Walker Books pound;5.99. The Time Twister By Jenny Nimmo Egmont Children's Books pound;10.99. The Sands of Time By Michael Hoeye Puffin pound;9.99. The Magician of Samarkand By Alan Temperley Macmillan Children's Books pound;9.99. Onda: Wind Rider By Robert Leeson Walker Books pound;4.99
Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider, the 14-year-old spy recruited by MI6, has already successfully completed three missions. When Eagle Strike opens, he's on holiday in the south of France with his friend Sabina Pleasure (straight out of James Bond) and her family. Sabina's father is injured in a bomb blast after Alex has spotted one of his old adversaries - Yassen Gregorovich, who killed his uncle - on a motor launch. Alex, sure the bomb was meant for him, investigates. As with the real 007, the thrill lies in Alex's ability to achieve the impossible and get out of various unlikely scrapes in the nick of time, such as the wonderfully cinematic scene in which a shark that is about to attack him meets with a particularly nasty end. This is pure escapism aimed at "boys with toys", but done with great panache and wit, which makes for a thoroughly gripping read for Year 6 and up. In the electrifying twist at the end, Alex learns something shocking about his own father, paving the way for another even more exciting adventure.
The Time Twister, the sequel to Midnight for Charlie Bone, also ends with Charlie tantalisingly close to a discovery about his father. This is the second in a five-volume fantasy series about the children of the Red King, whose "gifts" single them out for special education at Bloor's Academy. It is here, in 1916, that this elaborate episode starts. The "time twister" of the title is a powerful magic marble that Zeke Bloor uses in a fit of jealousy to send his cousin Henry Yewbeam forward in time. In the present day, Charlie and his friends discover Henry's true identity and hide him from his many enemies. There is a dark side to many of the children's powers, which Jenny Nimmo harnesses to explore deep emotions. This sequel seemed a long time coming but fans of 11 and over will agree it is certainly worth waiting for.
The Sands of Time is another sequel. Having charmed his way into the hearts of readers in the strikingly original Time Waits for No Mouse, Hermux Tantamoq, the watchmaker mouse, embarks on a new adventure with the beautiful Linka Perflinger, dashing aviator and object of his unrequited love. Evidence has come to light of an ancient civilisation of highly intelligent cats that may have dominated the mouse population, and Hermux and friends must find the Lost City before the evil Dr Stepfitchler destroys it. The plot is fast moving and much humour is derived from the social attitudes towards the universally loathed felines. Michael Hoeye portrays the little world of the mice exquisitely in these delightful books. Readers of 11 and over will be enchanted once again.
Mystery and magic prevail in two shorter books that will appeal to Years 4 to 6. The Magician of Samarkand is an exciting moral tale of how courage and goodness triumph over power and greed. The evil magician Zohak Ali comes to Samarkand, where he builds a magnificent palace, intent on becoming the richest, most powerful and most feared man in Asia. When the beautiful young girl Anahita refuses to be his wife, he turns her into an old crone; others who displease him are turned into animals or made to disappear. But Anahita has the courage to stand up to him and fight back.
Onda: Wind Rider is a gentle story with a fairytale feel. Onda is a sprite who longs to know what she looks like. However, being a spirit of the air, she cannot see herself unless she takes on a human form and gives up her spirit powers. First, she must go with the Four Winds to the Yellow and Red Kingdoms and resolve the relationships between a prince, a princess, a ploughman and a milkmaid, to ensure everyone's true happiness. This is a delicately balanced, thoughtful tale of choices, at whose core is the premise that one can rarely "have it all".