From School Library Journal
Grade 6–10—Extreme sport meets The Da Vinci Code
as British 15-year-old Max Gordon witnesses the shooting of Brother Zabala, a Basque monk, while snowboarding in the French Pyrenees. Before the monk dies, he gives Max a pendant and entrusts him with a cryptic message about an impending disaster. Thwarted in the Junior Xtreme competition by a teen thug he calls "Sharkface," Max and his injured friend, Sayid, focus their efforts on investigating the monk's mystical prediction. Plot twists abound, as Max rescues a girl named Sophie who is stalked by mystery men who may have something to do with her father, an endangered-animal protector. Someone is framing Max for Zabala's murder and he retreats to a chateau occupied by his American competitor Bobby Morrell's grandmother. Sayid helps Max decipher some of the magic square numbers in the monk's secret code, but the pair is separated when Sayid and Bobby are kidnapped. Another clue leads Max to Morocco, where he is bitten by a monkey and convalesces at Sophie's father's animal park. When it is learned that an evil Russian physicist named Tishenko is the mastermind of an environmental cataclysm and is after Zabala's code, it is a race against the clock for Max to save his friends and avert a large-scale disaster. Reluctant readers will live moment to moment in scenes describing extreme sport action and harrowing encounters with wild animals and assassins, undeterred by the convoluted plot and underdeveloped characters. Backstory about Max's parents, including his explorer father's slow recovery from an incident in Africa, refers to The Devil's Breath
(Delacorte, 2008) and the door remains open for further episodes.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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If you’re looking for pulse-pounding adventure, it’s tough to do better than Gilman’s Danger Zone series. The story follows the same model as The Devil’s Breath (2008): a maniacal evildoer’s catastrophic plans are thwarted by the ingenuity and tenacity of 15-year-old daredevil Max Gordon. This time out, an extreme sports competition leads to a chance rescuing of Sophie, a (maybe) teen femme fatale who ensnares Max in a plot involving endangered animals, astronomy, and a mysterious pendant that a monk hands over seconds before plummeting to a snowy doom. The omniscient point of view doesn’t win Gilman many style points, yet does a lot for clarity, which is his strong suit—few authors are able to depict action scenes so lucidly. And that’s a good thing, because they are literally nonstop: with the clock ticking, Max dashes from France to Switzerland to Morocco via speedboat, snowboard, paraglider, and even tiger. But it’s Max’s humanity—not only are injuries frequent, but in one scene he even cries from fear—that makes Gilman’s research and storytelling come alive. Grades 7-12. --Daniel Kraus