This is a debut novel by Michael Riding and it's a good one! It's aimed at middle grade and YA, but I will say that the reader needs to be quite accomplished to tackle this book. It's not one for someone just picking it up and having a go at.
This is about Callum and Emma who come across each other by chance. It just so happened that Callum had had his first ever 'out of body' experience. Emma helps him realise that he is able to transfer his mind into an animal or bird and then think, feel and control it. There are some dangerous side effects to this ability but as Callum is only just realising what he can do, he is yet to find out what these are. Emma knows about Callum's ability because her father has done lots of research on it. There was apparently a big scandal involving soldiers, the Ministry of Defence, MI6 and LSD that has been pushed under the carpet.
However, with Callum's new found ability and Emma's knowledge, they start digging for information and before long are dragged into a world of secrets, cover-ups, attempted murder and a huge plot to steal a nuclear warhead.
This is an adventure/mystery book with lots of action. There are two protagonists: Callum and Emma.
Callum is one half of a twin. He was found abandoned on a ferry up in the Isles of Scotland. Luckily, he was taken in by the family of the ferry captain, whose wife is a local nurse. He knows his background but has happily got on with his life with an older sister and a much older brother.
Emma has just moved to the island with her parents to start a new life, away from previous upsets caused, unintentionally by Emma. She has a talent for computers and can memorise information. In fact, she has already hacked into the computer system of MI6 and she is only 12!
Both characters were very likeable and I enjoyed the interaction between them. The author has clearly either done some research or knows about the way Emma thinks and behaves as, her literal dialogue and social inadequacy is spot on for her needs and talents. Callum and Emma are poles apart in character but circumstances draw them together. Callum has to get used to Emma's quirks and that takes time but he soon realises that he can trust her, literally with his life.
The scene setting and descriptions of the islands were vivid and stunning and the author captured the essence of life and beauty there in abundance. Being set in Scotland, obviously people there speak with an accent. I'm not going to lie, it took me a while to get how to read the native accent, but actually, I really enjoyed these parts of the story. It was easy to imagine I was actually there and I found it kind of grounded the story.
The build up and tension was written exceptionally well and I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of the chase. The writing swept you up and took you at speed through exhilarating escapades where life was literally held in the balance.
I mentioned at the beginning that I didn't think this book was suitable for newer readers or those who are not yet fluent as there are a lot of scientific and technical words. For those now thinking that this would put them off - don't be. It all has it's place and fits in with the whole premise of the story. This book is set in the world of espionage, science and computers so to make it all the more believable, words that fit those areas have to be used and they are used well.
In summary, I thought this was a really exciting book that was just one thrilling ride from beginning to end. The only downside is that it ends on a cliffhanger. Nooooooo! Now I need the second one - pronto!
by Allison Hazel
Born in Shropshire, educated at the local Grammar School and subsequently graduated in Geology from London University, Michael Riding spent 5 years as a teacher of Science whilst running an instrumentation company. In 2008 he left teaching to work full time in business as Managing Director. Married to Karen and father of Oliver and John, Callum McBride is Michael's first childrens' book based on the stories he told his children and their friends whilst on holiday on the Isle of Mull.