Published by: Hachette, 2nd March 2023
With rich world-building and an enthralling plot, Crookhaven is a fabulous new middle-grade series perfect for fans of boarding school adventures. Think Harry Potter or Skandar but in a real-world setting with talented crooks for students.
Gabriel Avery is exceptional at picking pockets - a skill he has learnt to stop himself and his beloved grandmother going hungry. But when, one day, he his caught by Caspian Crook, he is invited to join the secretive school of Crookhaven. Crookhaven is a place where thieves are taught to become exceptional in the arts of hacking, forgery, crimnastics, tricks of the trade, lock-picking and more, but ONLY to right the wrongs of the world and take back what has been robbed from the innocent.
But Gabriel is on another mission too. Desperate to uncover the identity of his parents, will Crookhaven give him the skills to find them?
It didn't take long to become fully immersed in J.J Arcanjo's brilliantly imagined world. Yes, there are definite similarities to other stories in this genre and yet it is still original enough to offer something new. With skilled writing and a premise akin to Robin Hood, it poses thought-provoking questions about morality and offers a contemporary insight into criminal activity. I particularly liked how up-to-date technology such as drones, security systems and hacking mingled with timeless pickpocketing and forgery.
The plot, set across the school year, is pacy and friendship is also a key theme of the novel. From Hermoine-esque Penelope to the Brothers Crim to the smooth Caspian Crook, the cast is well-balanced, entertaining, and representative of finding your place and identity in secondary school. I really enjoyed the point system and the break-in challenge and these added extra layers to the novel. There's a great twist at the end, establishing this series as a definite one-to-watch and I can't wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing me a review copy. Crookhaven publishes this Thursday, 2nd March 2023.
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