Our family have been big fans of Anthony Horowitz for a long time. I remember reading all the brilliant Alex Rider series (If you don't know - think a reluctant schoolboy James Bond) with my boys before they were old enough to read them themselves. We loved the way in which the main protagonist bravely fought evil, but was also slightly cynical and questioning towards the government and secret agents who controlled him. The action scenes are fast and gripping, the characters nicely drawn and the villains worthy of great Bond-films.
Having finished the last Alex Rider we moved on and bought this, the first in a new series of five books. The hero in the "Power of Five", Matt Freeman shares a lot in common with Alex Rider, an orphan, who didn't chose his role as super-hero, but is vulnerable despite his amazing abilities. In the characters and relationships, and vivid action scenes, Horowitz has clearly re-worked the winning Ryder formula for this series.
The differences between the two series though are enormous. Alex Ryder inhabits a world of villains, organised criminals, corrupt politicians and double-crossing assassins. Matt Freeman's battles take place in the context of demons, devils, evil-rituals, ancient curses and dark forces. Much of this is good suspense-filled storytelling, with secret societies and bizarre inexplicable events taking place. However, the end of this book becomes very dark and sinister indeed. While Horowitz never deliberately seeks to blur the lines between good and evil, and we always left with the hope that good will triumph - the details of Black Sabbaths, Satanic Masses, and human sacrifices were actually quite disturbing. I would imagine that many a sensitive child could be terrified by the mental images found in this book - I certainly won't be reading it next to my kids. I don't know what Horowitz own spiritual beliefs are; my guess is that doesn't believe in supernatural or personal evil - but knows how to write well and evoke moods powerfully. However, I do believe in such things, which would make me even more reticent to let my kids start this new series.
Overall - I was disappointed. I was really looking forward to another rip-roaring adventure, rather than such a disturbing display of the sinister.