L Brittney






MacMillan Children's Books, This edition 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Children's fiction 9-12. Thriller

Fourteen year old Nathan Fox is a young actor and superb acrobat, who lives with his sister in Elizabethan London. Recruited by Her Majesty's Spymaster General, Sir Francis Walsingham, Nathan leaves the theatre to start an exciting new life as an undercover agent. He is first sent to a school of defence where experts teach him the arts of spying needed to stay alive in the field. These arts include writing in secret codes, how to survive street fighting, accurate dagger throwing and sword fighting. Nathan is then assigned to his first mission, a trip to Venice to thwart Phillip of Spain's plans to invade England.

NATHAN FOX: DANGEROUS TIMES is the first in a series, and the author, L Brittney, a teacher of drama and theatre, certainly shows us that she knows her history well. She has previously written fourteen non-fiction books (including three children's history titles) and over forty plays. This is her first fiction book, and in it she accurately brings the Elizabethan period alive for her readers. Through Brittney's words, the reader can see the filthy streets, the palaces of the privileged, and feel the fear of being in a wooden sailing ship in the middle of a battle.

Nathan grows as a character through the story, but always remains believable as a young teenager. He shows great courage for such a young man, is respectful of others and willing to listen, but not such a goody two-shoes that he doesn't take things into his own hands. The main supporting characters are Marie, Nathan's sister, and John Pearce, Nathan's spy mentor. They are both quite complex characters and very realistic. The author's experience in drama also comes out in the story, with several links to Shakespeare's play 'Othello'. Indeed, the historical Shakespeare appears as a character early on in the book, trying to break away from being an actor by writing a play. Shakespeare asks Nathan to remember his experiences in Venice to pass on to him for inspiration. Nathan just has to live long enough to carry out this commission. One chapter dealing with sword fighting was especially interesting to read as I learned, along with Nathan, that there are four places on the human body where a man can be struck with a sword and disabled, two places where a struck man will die slowly and two points where a man will die quickly. We also learnt why you should avoid the quick points in battle. Want to know why? Well, read the book. NATHAN FOX: DANGEROUS TIMES is a really good adventure story, with non-stop action, thrilling battles, baddies to outwit and lots of fun. It also made the shortlist for the 2007 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize in the 9-12 category.

April 2007

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