Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Shadow War Mission 5: Never say never again

Who said you'd never have to go back to some places you've been before?

The fifth mission of The Shadow War is online now at This time you’re returning to Keithly to hunt down a mysterious person who's on the move. You'll need some eagle-eyed help in this one.

This groundbreaking Young Bond alternate reality game, written by Charlie Higson and designed by Six to Start, takes intrepid players through adventures in the world of Young Bond and his new adventure, By Royal Command.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Shadow War Mission 4: Lisbon

You’re to investigate a bookstore in Lisbon, where it appears something deadly has occurred...

The fourth mission of The Shadow War is online now at This time you’re off to Lisbon to search for a clue in a familiar bookshop. And if you couldn’t complete last week’s mission because you didn’t have a copy of By Royal Command in hand, CLICK HERE for the codeword clue.

This groundbreaking Young Bond alternate reality game, written by Charlie Higson and designed by Six to Start, takes intrepid players through adventures in the world of Young Bond and his new adventure, By Royal Command.

Good luck.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Variant hidden in 20 copies of By Royal Command

If you’ve been playing the Young Bond alternate reality game, The Shadow War, then you learned last week where to find a secret codeword hidden inside By Royal Command that helped complete the mission. If you couldn’t find it, or if you’re a non-player but still curious, CLICK HERE to see the word.

However, did you know there is different codeword hidden in only 20 copies of By Royal Command worldwide that unlocks more information?

While this is exciting for gamers, it is even more exciting (or frustrating) for collectors, because a copy of By Royal Command with this rare variant codeword is certain to be a mega hot collectible!

So what is the other codeword? I have no idea. Thus far, no fan has come forward with one of the elusive 20. But now that we know where the word is hidden...let the search begin!

And if you think you’ve found it, please EMAIL ME and I can verify it with Puffin HQ.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Shadow War Mission 3: The Royal Docks

The spymaster sends you to the Royal Docks to solve the mystery of ‘Sapphire’...

The third mission of The Shadow War is online now at This time you’re off to search the London Docklands, and if you have a copy of By Royal Command in hand, a rare clue in the book itself can help you find your destination.

This groundbreaking Young Bond alternate reality game, written by Charlie Higson and designed by Six to Start, takes intrepid players through adventures in the world of Young Bond and his new adventure, By Royal Command.

Good luck.

Friday, September 5, 2008

BOOK BOND REVIEW: Young Bond loses his innocence

With By Royal Command Charlie Higson brings the Young Bond series in for a picture perfect landing, touching down cleanly and evenly on every aspect of James Bond’s past and future life. Within its own universe, By Royal Command is the equivalent of 2006’s Casino Royale or this year’s The Dark Knight -- a surprisingly profound, introspective, and ultimately tragic chapter that takes a leap in quality and maturity from all that has come before.

At the same time, By Royal Command is a kinder and gentler Young Bond novel that doesn’t have nearly the level of gruesome violence that has become a hallmark of the series (and may have actually gone too far in the last book). It’s an utterly surprising book in just about every way. Of course, all the Young Bond books have been individualistic and, in their own ways, surprises, so By Royal Command fits perfectly into a series that has never repeated itself.


By Royal Command is divided into three sections so distinct that it’s worth reviewing one section at a time.

PART ONE (“Kitzbuhel”) finds James Bond joining a school skiing party in the Austrian Alps. For my money, these pages contain Charlie Higson’s best work. Without much main plot to address, Charlie serves up an atmospheric slow burn. His descriptions of the Alps and his skiing details put the reader right into Bond’s snow boots. The reader is transported and even lulled into the beauty of the mountains. But then the clouds come in and so does the danger, and Charlie turns his skills toward creating a thrilling and frightening battle for survival. It’s brilliant and harrowing stuff. For those who have resisted the Young Bond series, read these first 100 pages and I guarantee you will pick up the entire series.

PART TWO (“Eton”) finds young James back at school in England, and here’s where the main plot and caper kicks in. For Fleming buffs, this is what they have been waiting for as we are finally introduced to the infamous “boys’ maid,” who Ian Fleming established in You Only Live Twice as being instrumental in Bond leaving the school. Yes, By Royal Command gives us the full “maid incident” and, no, it’s not sexual (well, at least not on the page -- adult readers may be able to read between the chapters). Feisty Roan Power is a raven-haired Irish beauty who likens herself to a witch, and young James falls hard for the older woman (she’s 17). Despite saying he’d avoid romance in the Young Bond series for fear of putting off his young male readers, Charlie takes the plunge and gives us a full-blown love story in By Royal Command.

But it’s clear from the very first chapters that Charlie is not necessarily writing a book for kids, or at least he is asking more of his young readers. By Royal Command is full of sophisticated political and historical references, especially in this second section (Bond has a historically fascinating conversation with the Prince of Wales), and the plotting is an intricate web of spy intrigue. Far from being a turn off, I expect even the youngest readers, having invested in the first four books, will be rapt with attention, waiting for the next revelatory shoe to drop. But even if they ultimately opt for the eels of SilverFin, the pirates of Blood Fever, the puzzles of Double or Die, or the death mazes of Hurricane Gold, the mature themes of By Royal Command will certainly attract over time and provide a perfect bridge to a possible Young Bond Series II (please oh please).

Interestingly, the big caper in By Royal Command – an attempt to assassinate King George during a visit to Eton – is resolved near the end of this second section, which still leaves a good 100 pages to go. This is where By Royal Command takes its most surprising turn.

In PART THREE (“Fugitives”), James Bond resolves to do the wrong thing – bigtime. He follows his heart instead of his new SIS controllers, says the hell with King and Country, and uses all his formidable skills to help Roan – revealed to be a communist conspirator – escape to Europe. It’s here that By Royal Command becomes a wonderful NOVEL, throwing off all conventions of a typical James Bond book. It’s as exhilarating for the reader as it is for Bond to be freed of convention and plunge back into Charlie’s wonderful descriptions of the Austrian Alps, this time during a summer bloom (nicely symbolic). But danger is close behind, and Higson throws us a wonderful surprise twist in the form of a returning character that plunges Bond back into familiar territory for an exciting climax, where we finally get a generous helping of Young Bond gore (I knew he couldn’t resist).

As for the very end… I’ll leave it to the reader to discover. Suffice to say, I was able to brings tears to the eyes of a female friend by just describing it.

Structurally, By Royal Command is somewhat similar to Devil May Care (the celebrated Centenary adult Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks), particularly in its post-caper third act flight. But By Royal Command has an emotional depth that the adult Bond adventure didn’t. There is a real sadness that permeates By Royal Command, a steady drip drip drip of Bond’s innocence, of which Bond is all too aware. After the bloody events of the past four books, especially the relentless Hurricane Gold, this James Bond wants nothing more than to live a normal schoolboy’s life. He’s a 14-year-old with post traumatic stress. (Ironically, the young Bond of By Royal Command is much more the damaged “old gunslinger” as described by Faulks.)

But Bond discovers he is fated to be a magnet for danger and death, and his reserves of stamina and strength in such situations have not gone unnoticed by leaders who soon need young men with such reserves. Not only does Bond lose what remained of his innocence in By Royal Command, it’s made clear to him that the world will soon lose what remains of its innocence as well. The specter of World War II and the Cold War looms large over this novel and, in the end, Bond is resigned that his will never be a normal life. In time, he will become a number.

Okay, what are the flaws? I’ll leave it to fandom to nitpick, but for me, I was never able to completely fall in love with Roan as I was past Bond girls. Maybe it’s because her calling James “darling” sounded to matronly. But this also contributed to the tragedy. Despite Roan’s own claims of love, Bond was clearly in a relationship that was one-sided. And after the last two books, some may find By Royal Command too light on gore and violence. But this is not a complaint I’d level. Like Blood Fever, I think this book strikes a perfect, realistic balance of all elements that make up a great James Bond novel.

So where does By Royal Command stand among the other Young Bonds? For me, it’s clearly the best -- which qualifies it as one of the very best James Bond continuation novels, period. For fans who still refuse to read the series based on the concept alone, it’ll be hard to justify why they won’t at least read By Royal Command, as it depicts a key event established by Fleming and IS a spy novel. While it’s preferable to have a knowledge of what came before (the book touches on all the past Young Bond novels with several returning characters), By Royal Command can still be read as a stand alone.

While there has been talk of more Young Bond adventures at some point in the future, Charlie makes it clear in his acknowledgments that By Royal Command is the end of a five book cycle started in 2005 with SilverFin.

What a spectacular end it was.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

2000 By Royal Command signed limited editions

Young Bond fans and collectors will want to be on the watch for a By Royal Command “Signed & Numbered Limited Edition” that was released alongside the hardcover yesterday.

Charlie signed and numbered 2000 of these special editions for sale in independent bookstores. Aside from the signature and number stamp, the book is identical to the retail hardcover.

By Royal Command finds James Bond in action from England to the chilling heights of the Austrian Alps. The book completes Charlie’s five book cycle that began in 2005 with SilverFin.

Watch for my review of By Royal Command on Friday.

Interview: Charlie Higson in command

What an amazing few weeks it’s been for Bond fans. We’ve had the release of the newest Young Bond bestseller, By Royal Command, the Young Bond alternate reality game, The Shadow War, is going strong and, oh yeah, some sort of trailer was released.

Luckily, in the midst of all the excitement, I was able to sit down for an informal iChat with the man at the center of the action, Charlie Higson.

For talk of Irish maids, airships, Nazi sympathizers, and why Charlie thinks he may have screwed up his chances for a knighthood, click below and go:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Young Bond is BACK!

James Bond is BACK in Charlie Higson’s fifth Young Bond adventure, By Royal Command.

By Royal Command sees James Bond thrown into the midst of a dangerous, spy-ridden plot that threatens to put both King and country at risk. Set between the two World Wars and moving between Eton and the chilling slopes of the Austrian Alps, By Royal Command sees the young James Bond put to the test as never before. Not only are his bravery and loyalty on trial, but the arrival of a pretty, young maid at Eton also teaches him a lesson of the heart.

By Royal Command completes Charlie’s five book cycle of Young Bond novels that began in 2005 with SilverFin. Says Charlie, “It’s a great way to finish off the series, and at the end of it we really feel that James is poised for the next phase of his life.”

By Royal Command is released by Puffin Books as a hardcover and audiobook.

Read my exclusive interview with Charlie Higson to find out what the future holds for Young James Bond.

The Shadow War Mission 2: The Danger Society

The Danger Society files at Eton contain a key to a national security threat...

The second mission of The Shadow War is online now at This time you’re off to the world famous Eton College to uncover a clue in the files of the Danger Society. Who knows, you may even bump into James Bond himself!

This groundbreaking Young Bond alternate reality game, written by Charlie Higson and designed by Six to Start, takes intrepid players through adventures in the world of Young Bond and his new adventure, By Royal Command.

In fact, it’s important that you have a copy of By Royal Command in hand to complete a future mission. Luckily, the book is out today.

Good luck.

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