CHERUB SERIES: The Killing - Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
My Review Of The FOURTH In The CHERUB SERIES: The Killing.

Submitted: June 09, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 09, 2015



CHERUB SERIES: The Killing - Review

The Killing is the fourth book in the CHERUB series, continuing to follow James Adams, this time on a mission to bring down local crime lord, Leon Tarasov. However, James soon unearths a conspiracy greater then anyone could have imagined.


The Killing is one of the most character focussed books in the whole series, going far deeper into old and new characters. Some of this works extremely well, such as with James’s new love interest Hannah or ex-CHERUB agent, Millie Ketner. Other attempts at character development do not and unfortunately, one of the story’s biggest failures is with the character of James Adams himself.


Now, let me make this clear, I do not believe that this character development was unjustified nor was it entirely bad. However, it does not work nearly as well as previous entries for a number of key reasons. Firstly, Robert Muchamore has always had a talent for having characters behave like real people: swearing, fighting, getting into arguments etc. while still making them likeable and interesting. Unfortunately, here he pushes his luck a step too far.


James Adams loses his girlfriend Kerry, his holiday and the majority of his friends in a very short time frame. Firstly, the events surrounding his breakup with Kerry are very contrived. Though this was partially established by having her have bitter feeling towards him because of a training exercise, it has Kerry come across as very unlikeable and very petty. 


In Class A, her character development was brilliant, showing her to be capable of anger, like James but having a forgiving nature towards those she cared about and a determination to prove herself. She was insecure despite her strength and was certainly not a character who I would imagine acting in many of the ways she does in this story. 


Furthermore, the significance of their breakup is almost completely nullified by a romantic exchange with Kerry and James share, making their breakup seem unimportant. While they are still separated at the end of this book, it is clear that a reunion of sorts is incredibly likely in the next book, which makes the whole thing seem very unlikeable.


However, the biggest misstep comes in the actions of James Adams and the reaction to which other characters have about it. James injures a younger kid who like many CHERUB agents, has a tragic backstory. Firstly, while James has always done stupid things; such as crashing the car in “Maximum Security”, his mistakes were a result of his ego and a need to learn responsibility. This is a relatable character arc for a teenage protagonist.


Here though, his actions are not just immature, they are borderline vicious. Because he feels a great deal of guilt about it, suffers for his actions and it was a one off mistake, this allows it to at least work as exposing a much darker side to James, if not a bit abruptly. Yes, James has committed violent acts before, such as his attack on a school bully in “The Recruit” or his attack on Kerry’s hand during the 100 day, basic training. 


There though, he was under great stress and still learning how to cope with things, therefore his mistakes were far more easily forgiven. Furthermore, in the later case, he takes proactive steps to fix his mistake. Here, he is punished but does little to actually make it up to the boy he has hurt himself, making him come across as unlikeable.


However, the worst part to this whole thing, is the reactions of his friends. To put it bluntly… no. I don’t buy it. His friends all decide to blank him in order to teach him a lesson and prevent him from being beaten up by two much older and stronger CHERUB agents.


Firstly, this is not how real people would react to a situation. Blanking someone almost never works in real life for more than a day and the book states that his friends maintain it for more than a month. I do not believe that James Adams friendship group of such different, varied people, would all do this. 


Muchamore seriously drops the ball by missing out scenes which would have made this idea work. Firstly, if they had been shown discussing about what James had done and how to react. Secondly, if it had been shown how Kyle talked the people out of being James up that were going to. Thirdly, if any of them had confronted James about it away from the main group.


The only one who reacts both in a justifiable and in character way, is Lauren Adams. The confrontation she has with James is emotionally powerful and reflects James’s lowestptoint in the book and arguably, the saga so far. However, it would have been so much more powerful if it had gone something like this:


  • James gets beaten up. 
  • James gets get confronted by his friends, verbal abuse.
  • James gets confronted by his sister, also verbal abuse, far more personal.


As it stands, The Killing feels like it has one third of what it needs for a powerful, emotional, punch to the gut. And yes, I know his friends confront him but it is a very brief encounter and is only used as part of the scene in which they state that they are going to blank him. 


As previously stated, I do not buy the reactions of his friends. I might have been able to accept some of them excluding him but there needed to be some variety. A character I think would have been perfect for this, is Bruce. Having attacked Kerry in “Class A” he could have at least understood what it is like to be overcome with immediate anger, thereby sympathising with James in some ways. 


Instead, he behaves exactly like the rest of them, making the character come across as hypocritical. This entire section of the story is undoubtedly the worst thing written in the CHERUB series so far and while it is not unreal, had me shaking my head in frustration.


As for the rest of the story it is good but it does contain a serious problem: the scale. Clearly, Robert Muchamore is conscious of escalation, getting to the point where he has to try topping every previous entry and has instead grounded the story in a low-key mission, with unexpected elements.


While it is an interesting plot, it lacks the tension that a story like “The Killing” really needs. James Adams should have been sent on his most dangerous mission yet, in order to really hammer home the point that this is the worst and most dangerous time in James Adam’s life so far. It would have helped to make the earlier sections feel more in tone with the rest of the story and James suffering some sort of injury or emotional scarring would have been a much better justification for his friends reconnecting with him than a few throw-away lines in the epilogue.


Despite many flaws, in character development, tone and scale, The Killing is still an enjoyable read with many entertaining sections, good use of humour and some very well realised characters, such as James Adam’s love interest Hannah; who I honestly liked more than Kerry in this story.

However, it has a lost of wasted potential and that is truly its biggest problem. While still enjoyable, it was definitely a step down for the series and arguably, its weakest entry.


The Killing is not DEAD ON ARRIVAL, but its hardly LIVING proof of Robert Muchamore’s excellent writing.


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