Dawn of Spies

Dawn of Spies (Crusoe #1) by Andrew Lane (Adaptive Books, 2017, 320pp.) 

In this reimagining of Daniel Defoe’s 18th century classic of shipwreck and survival, Robinson “Robin” Crusoe, a merchant’s son, and Friday, the daughter of a pirate king, are finally rescued from a desert island after three long years as living as castaways. Shortly after they arrive in London, the writer Daniel Defoe offers to buy the rights to their amazing story. In normal circumstances, this close-knit pair of friends would be reluctant to open up to a stranger--however, circumstances have rendered them penniless, and they see no other choice but to agree to a meeting. Imagine their surprise when Defoe later reveals himself to be a spy for the government. He thinks their unique experiences will make them perfect spies, and wants to recruit them for service under King Charles II. Their first mission is to protect the king’s daughter, the Countess of Lichfield, from kidnapping by enemies of the Crown. Of course, despite the valiant efforts of Robin, Friday, and other members of the king’s spy ring, the Countess is kidnapped by masked men, and carried away in a hot air balloon. Things get even more tense when its discovered that she’s been taken by the Circle of Thirteen, an organization dedicated to taking down the entire empire at any cost.

Having already cut his teeth on the “reinvented classic” genre with his Young Sherlock Holmes series, Andrew Lane--for the most part--executes his premise well. I especially like what he did with the role of Friday. In the classical text, Friday is Crusoe’s male servant who swears subservience to the Englishman after the latter saves him from cannibals. In Lane’s work, Friday is Crusoe’s friend and equal, a strong and capable young black woman who is more than capable of holding her own. Although the fast-paced nature of the tale leaves little room for character development (which would have, in my opinion, made it a much better novel), its interesting premise and swashbuckling action sequences make this a good choice for fans of action/adventure. Recommended for Ages 13-15.

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