Revenge can make one’s actions wild and unpredictable. This much is shown from the first page of Andy McNab and Robert Rigby’s novel, “Avenger.” As a third book in a series, the story starts right at the center of the action with Black Star, a mastermind computer hacker who recruits vulnerable teenagers to be his “Angels of Death.”
Ever since the death of a son in the 9/11 attacks, his sole goal in life is getting revenge on the world. Black Star’s hope for the teenagers to grow into suicide bombers plagues and rouses suspicions across the globe, just as he has wanted. He lures the volatile, disturbed teens through hacked online chats as he secretly weeds out those who are too weak or arrogant to do as he requires. As he targets handfuls of disturbed youths who are sick of life and feel underappreciated, they succumb easily and follow him every step of the way.
Danny Watts is seventeen. He should be leading a normal life and going to school, but finds himself with his grandfather, Fergus, and his friend, Elena Omolodon, in a militaristic spy base in the United Kingdom. The ultimate goal is to kill Black Star, who is the biggest threat to international security.
With Elena posing as an adolescent interested in becoming an “Angel of Death”, she leads the British government closer to finding their target. Along the way, Black Star becomes more and more attracted to what Elena might be able to do for him. After masterminding two train attacks led by two suicide bombers, all he needs is one more assault on New York to get his revenge. And in his mind, Elena seems like a perfect Angel of Death.
Almost as though the hunt for the most wanted man in the world is not enough of a challenge, Danny and Elena find themselves in more trouble. Their employer, Agent Deveraux, wants to use them for the operation and then, as the chase closes in, terminate them. Fergus, Danny’s only living relative, is betrayed and needs his grandson’s help. Elena’s father, whom she had just started to forge a bond with, has been missing and is suspected to be dead.
As spending so much time online with a man thirsty for bloodshed begins to take its toll on Elena, Danny fears that she might voluntarily execute what Black Star instructs her to do. The safety of thousands of people should not lie in the hands of two teenagers with their own personal problems. Yet for many, they are the only hope in catching Black Star.
One of the authors of Avengers, Andy McNab, has served in the British military field for many years, won multiple accolades in the army, and is well acquainted with all the particular terms that spies and undercover agents use, making the story seem far more realistic and interesting. Although learning about the different techniques of disguise is fascinating, some portions of the story lack true purpose. All in all, Danny is not very well portrayed as a strong, rounded character. He seems flat and colorless, something that is surprising to find in a main character. However, on the brighter side, the plotline quickly enhances and builds once the agents are sent to New York to track, and tension and suspicion mount through spiraling events and unexpected turns.
However, deep down, “Avenger” is not about capturing the bad guy and being a hero. It concerns something far more applicable. Loss and hopelessness and how greatly those attributes can change a human psyche run deep as one explores not only the emotions of Danny and Elena, but the terrible, sad mindset of Black Star himself. The book stresses the importance of empathy for others, no matter how dark or cruel their actions are, as experiences can greatly twist a person’s views. One does not have to yield to violence or cruelty if they turn to the world for help, rather than revenge.
Kate Tsui is freshman attending Darien High School. She enjoys reading and is always looking forward to new book recommendations from friends. She likes to travel, paint, and play the piano.