Getting young boys to read is tough, so stories full of adventure and sleuthing are probably your best bet for getting a 10-year-old to sit down with a book.
Rohan Gavin’s Knightley and Son is definitely one of those books which will be attractive to young boys – it’s got a young boy detective, a mystery and plenty of strange goings-on. Basically, Knightley and Son is the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock for young readers.
Darkus Knightley’s private investigator dad Alan has been in a mysterious narcoleptic trance for years. While Darkus, known as Doc, waits for Alan to wake up, he begins to read all his dad’s case files, memorising them in the hopes that when Alan resurfaces, he’ll bring his son into the detecting fold.
When Alan does wake up, he wants Doc to stay away in case he finds himself in danger. But Alan’s wonky memory means Doc is the one left trying to sort out the mystery of a book – The Code – which can seemingly control people, and an evil group of people known only as The Combination.
Doc’s a great protagonist. He’s odd and precocious and clever, and just a generally likeable kind of kid. However, he’s far from cool, and a young boy reading this might find him a little difficult to relate to, especially because 13-year-old Doc is so much wiser than his years, and that inevitably leads to him using language I’m not sure young readers would be familiar with. At one point Doc uses the word ‘incontrovertibly’, which I’m not sure your average 10-year-old (the book is aimed at 10+) would understand without a dictionary. Then again, maybe I’m underestimating kids these days.
The plot is packed full of stuff – there’s not only the mystery of The Code and The Combination, but also Doc’s relationship with his father, his family situation, and his step-sister Tilly, who has a host of issues of her own. For me, Tilly was a slightly more compelling character than Doc, but maybe that’s because I’m female. She’d definitely be someone girls who read the book would find fascinating.
Knightley and Son really gets going in its last third, when the action proper kicks off. Before that, there’s a lot of thinking and theorising and mapping things out, and some unnecessary sub-plots (I’m not sure we needed to see Doc’s step-dad fascination with The Code) and I got a teensy bit frustrated with the book. Once everything starts coming together, though, that’s when the book really finds its way.
Gavin’s created a novel that will appeal to young readers – boys and girls alike. Knightley and Son is the first in a series. It’s a promising start, and if the following books can be tightened up a bit, then I’m sure it will draw more people in.
How I got this book: From the publisher, Bloomsbury. This did not affect my review.