Book talk: Otto is one of the chosen ones. He is plucked out of his life as an orphan and taken to a school that few even know exists. There he takes specialized classes different from any normal school curriculum with a group of kids with special abilities who are destined to change the planet. But H.I.V.E. is no Hogwarts. Though the school often seems magical, it is technology that runs it. Otto and the others are being trained not to save the world, but to terrorize it. The Higher Institute of Villainous Education is where the world's best evil masterminds and henchmen are trained. Otto isn't just a student, he's also a prisoner. You cannot refuse an invitation to H.I.V.E., and once you're in there's no escape or communication with the outside world. But Otto isn't used to taking orders or doing what he's told. Soon H.I.V.E. will realize that when they recruited Otto, they got more than they bargained for.
Rocks my socks: I love the way the novel takes super hero and fantasy tropes and turns them on their head. Otto and his friends are picked up because they have a potential for evil, but they aren't plain villains. They're being held against their will in many cases and they struggle to fit in without allowing the darkness of the place overwhelm them. Just like Harry Potter and his friends, they learn to trust each other and use their various strengths to work together; but they do it while fighting the evil tendencies that are being cultivated in each of them. I love the computer intelligence of H.I.V.E. mind and the way the students recognize and value its emerging intelligence. It reminded me of poor Dobby. Hopefully H.I.V.E. mind fares better because I get overly attached to fictional artificial intelligences. The book is fast-paced, humorous, morally complex, and still manages to drive home some positive messages about friendship and acceptance, which is no easy feat.
Rocks in my socks: The book felt a bit formulaic at times with the headmaster giving an evil is just misunderstood ambition speech that I felt I had heard dozens of times. Plenty of well-used tropes from magical boarding school fiction are trotted out. It's meant to be a quick, fun read though so none of that bugged me that much. What really annoyed me was all of the fat-shaming it did around the character Franz. A lot of cheap jokes are made at his expense and in a narrative that otherwise makes a point about accepting others and not judging based on appearance, I found this particularly disappointing.
Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of superheroes or spies. There's a lot of fast-paced action and high tech gadgets that are sure to attract readers. Fans of Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius will enjoy this take on villainous education. I'd give it to grades 5 and up.
Mark Walden has website with more information about him and his books.
The series has its own official website with an oddly entertaining evil laugh generator, a grapple game, and a test to see which stream you'd be in.
It also has an unofficial wiki page
Bloomsbury also has a page for the books
There's a trailer for the book:
And a video interview with the author:
Source: school library
H.I.V.E. The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden: buy it or check it out today!