Thrilling story of betrayal and unexpected romance, Savarna Yang
June 24, 2021
“There were times during the war when I lost myself… I risked becoming the person I was playing, and that person was a Nazi.”
Joseph (Joe) St George is 15 years old. A schoolboy. But unlike most schoolboys, he also happens to be a spy for MI5.
It’s the middle of World War Two and he has just found out he is being sent on a mission. He’s told that his mother, also a spy, has gone missing in Germany and that he has to rescue her.
Joe is parachuted into Germany and makes his way to a rendezvous with an accomplice. There he learns that actually, his mission is not to rescue his mother. Turns out MI5 just wanted to make sure he cooperated. Instead, Joe is about to be sent right into ‘the very heart of the Nazi spider web,’” the Eagle’s Nest, a place used by Nazi Party members for government meetings and discussions. Eight boys and girls from the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls have been selected for a special project and his job is to infiltrate this group. To do this he must replace one of them. Joe St George must become Jürgen Weyl…
Spycraft by Brian Falkner is an absolutely gripping novel set in World War Two. The second in the Katipo Joe series, I totally loved it! I haven’t actually read the first book and I thought it would be interesting to see if this had an impact on my reading experience of the sequel. Although there were some references to Joe’s previous mission I had to figure out, I didn’t have any trouble getting right into the story.
The book starts with a prologue which is really effective in drawing you in. “The Irishman stops as the dog plants her paws in front of him and bares her teeth, jagged in the light of the reluctant moon…Perhaps she can smell the blood on the knife.” A knife? Blood?! From the very first paragraph, I couldn’t wait to read more.
I also found the cover really hooked me – a full moon over the Eagle’s Nest and the Katipo spider. The spider resembles a swastika (the symbol on the Nazi flag) and Katipo is Joe’s code name.
One message the book gets across is that good and bad aren’t as simple as black and white. Joe is the ‘good guy’ but that doesn’t mean all he does is perfect or right. In fact, he comes very close to murdering the girl he has a crush on when she starts to suspect his true identity. Likewise, the ‘bad guys’ are portrayed as humans, not demons.
Spycraft is technically a war story, however, most of the narrative takes place away from the thick of war. This sets it apart from other war dramas but doesn’t mean it lacks action or excitement!
Falkner has written Spycraft very cleverly. There’s never a slow moment and the way he weaves real-life people and events along with his fictional characters left me feeling as though I was part of the story. I think my heart was thumping faster than normal at points! There are some very tense and horrific parts of this book and a lot of these things actually happened during World War Two. For this reason, I’d recommend to readers 13+.
Spycraft is an un-put-down-able, very well-researched novel with tension, betrayal and unexpected romance. One of the finalists in the NZ Book Awards Children and Young Adults and I can definitely see why. I can’t wait to read the whole series!
- Savarna Yang is 13 years old and lives near Dunedin.