Saturday, 27 November 2010

Review: The Mythical 9th Division series by Alex Milway

Operation Robot Storm

Something strange is happening in the Welsh mountains. It should be the middle of summer, but Snowdonia has been beseiged by blizzards and ice storms. A company of Arctic-trained soldiers sent to investigate has disappeared and the only remaining hope is a secret troop of yeti agents - the Mythical 9th Division.

Terror of the Deep

Long, long ago, an underwater archaeologist discovered an ancient and powerful jewel buried deep in the waters of the Pacific Ocean – the Stone of the Sea. Many years later, the same archaeologist, Christian Krall, has used the stone to bring every mythical sea creature on the planet under his control. Now he is plotting to destroy the world from his watery lair off the east coast of Australia. With the Mermen of the Mythical 3rd Division out of action, it falls to the Mythical 9th to stop Krall from creating the biggest tsunami the world has ever seen – a tsunami big enough to obliterate the Earth.

Fed up with vampires? Bored of werewolves? Have no fear, the yetis are here! It is such a great idea that I am a little surprised that no-one has come it with it before. Surprised and also very relieved as I am not sure anyone else could have done this in such a fun way as author and illustrator Alex Milway has. The premise is super cool - unbeknownst to the general public, following "the formation of the United Nations in 1945 it was decided that all of the mythical troops of the world should be ratified and united under one top-secret umbrella organisation: L.E.G.E.N.D.S. (League of Extraordinary and Genetically ENhanced Defence Squads)." The Yetis are the 9th Division of this covert organisation, with the likes of Norwegian Trolls, Mermen of Atlantis and Bigfoot of America making up some of the other elite fighting units.

The Mythical 9th is a Division of only three yetis, but they are no less formidable for this lack in numbers. Like all good crack commando units each member has a skill set and personality that makes them indispensable: first up there is Albrecht, leader of the unit and the most agile of the three; next there is Saar, vegetarian scarf wearer he is the oldest of the three and brings wisdom to the mix; and finally there is Timonen, a huge hulking brute with a yak-fixation who is very much the muscle of the team.

When reading these books I was very much reminded of The A Team, albeit an incredibly hairy version working on the side of the law. Not just because of the different skills each member brings, but also the friction occurs between them due to their differing personalities. Timonen shows disdain at Saar's wearing of a scarf ("I'm embarrassed to be seen with him"), whilst Saar despairs at Timonen's lack of manners and that has has "nothing but fur for brains". Albrecht finds himself constantly having to play the role of mediator between the two (just as Hannibal Smith did between BA and Murdoch). However, all petty squabbles are put aside when it really matters as the Mythical 9th are thrown into action against any egotistical would-be world dominating madman that decides to rear his head.

Alex Milway's writing is fast paced and laugh out loud funny and absolutely perfect for the 7+ age group. However, these are special for another reason - Alex Milway is also an very accomplished comic illustrator, and the illustrations that complement his anarchic action stories are an absolute delight. I found myself racing through the story to get to the next page with an image on it; and these pictures are not just there to accompany the text - they are also used to tell parts of the story. As a result of this these books are perfect for reluctant readers and also kids who struggle with page after page of seemingly endless words.

I read the first book in the series a few weeks ago, shortly after meeting Alex and the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival (Alex was instrumental in the organisation of the festival) and I was hooked on the story after the first chapter (an inter-division race to the summit of Everest between Albrecht and a Bigfoot from the Mythical 6th Division). I was therefore really chuffed to receive a copy of the sequel from Walker Books, a book that I enjoyed even more than the first - slightly longer, more illustrations, and also the wonderful yowies of Australia. I think these books will grow and grow in popularity as more kids discover them and start raving about them in school playgrounds around the country. You can find out more about the Mythical 9th at their websiteOperation Robot Storm is available to buy already and Terror of the Deep is scheduled for release on 6th December (and I can't think of a better stocking filler for a 7+ boy this Christmas).


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