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.
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