H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Otto Malpense may only be thirteen years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country. He is the perfect candidate to become the world’s next supervillain.
That is why he ends up at H.I.V.E., handpicked to become a member of the incoming class. The students have been kidnapped and brought to a secluded island inside a seemingly active volcano, where the school has resided for decades. All the kids are elite; they are the most athletic, the most technically advanced, and the smartest in the country. Inside the cavernous marble rooms, floodlit hangars, and steel doors, the students are enrolled in Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion 101. But what Otto soon comes to realize is that this is a six-year program, and leaving is not an option.
With the help of his new friends: an athletic martial-arts expert; a world-famous, beautiful diamond thief; and a spunky computer genius — the only other people who seem to want to leave — can Otto achieve what has never been done before and break out of H.I.V.E.?
All right, yes, I admit it – I’m a bit old for the target audience of H.I.V.E. So that might have dampened some of my enjoyment. But not a lot of it. Because this was a fun book. And not just because of some minor parallels between the school shown here and Hogwarts.
It’s a bit of a ride from start to finish, although I think Walden hit a word limit or maximum page count or something towards the final third when we go from a lot of show to a lot of tell to speed us through to the final climax.
On top of this, a lot of the characters don’t get much development beyond a couple of broad strokes – including focus characters. Hopefully they’ll get some more in the upcoming novels since this first novel read a lot more like the first episode of a TV show: establish the characters and their relationships and show us the status quo. Nothing wrong with that – provided sequel novels give us more.
And maybe a few less cliches? I don’t know, but there were a lot. Some of them were partially averted or deconstructed, but the lack of development to certain characters left me reeling a little (even though I called certain revelations ahead of time). Again, a lot of these cliches can be handled by more development, so I’ll have to read and find out if Walden manages it.
Am I expecting too much from a YA/tween novel? Maybe. But I don’t think so. A book written for a younger audience should still have an engaging plot and good character development.
H.I.V.E. is well-written and engaging, and what we saw of the characters is well done, so I have no doubt that Walden can and will build on the foundation he’s laid down in this first novel.