Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Devil's Breath

The Devil's Breath

David Gilman
For ages 14 and up
Random House, 2008   ISBN: 978-0385735605

Most teens, if they were targeted by an assassin, would probably have no idea that they were being targeted. Max Gordon, because of his schooling and his unusual upraising, is a particularly sharp and aware young man, and when he hears the metallic click of an automatic pistol being cocked, in a place where such a noise does not belong, he immediately reacts, and the assassin fails his mission as a result.

   Max was running when this appalling event happened and after it is over he goes back to his boarding school. The principal immediately tries to contact Max’s father, who is in Namibia at the moment. This is how the school and Max find out that Max’s father, Tom Gordon, is missing. Tom left an envelope for Max, in case something should happen to him. In the envelope there is a piece of paper with a the name of one Tom’s friends, Farentino, written on it. Max wastes no time and he sets off for London.

   Farentino tells Max what little he knows, showing him a packet that Tom sent to him. Apparently he gave the packet of notes to a Namibian Bushman who delivered it by hand to someone Tom trusted. The packet was then sent on to Farentino. Unfortunately, the contents of the package are hard to understand and so far have provided no clues to Tom’s whereabouts. Farentino thinks Tom was looking into the activities of Shaka Chang, a powerful businessman, who is building a dam in Namibia. Perhaps Tom found some information that would stop the controversial dam project from being completed, which would mean that Shaka Change would want Tom and his information to disappear. Max decides that the only option he has is to go to Namibia to find his father.

   Against his better judgement, Farentino helps Max get to South Africa. From there a girl called Kallie van Reenan flies him to her father’s farm. Her father was the one who received Tom’s package from the Bushman. When they get to the van Reenan farm, which is deep in the bush, Max meets the Bushman who brought the precious packet of notes to Kallie’s father. The Bushman, !Konga, is actually a teenager, and he insists that “it was written” that Max would come to Namibia and that he is a part of some ancient prophecy. !Konga has seen a rocks paintings that show Max arriving and for this reason !Konga is willing to help Max find his father.

   The two teenage boys set off for Skeleton Rock, Shaka Chang’s headquarters. It is many miles away and they have to cross rugged and dangerous terrain to get there. Luckily Kallie has a spare Land Rover which she fills with the supplies the boys will need for the journey. At first all goes well, but it is not long before their enemies, presumably Shaka Chang’s men, find them and the chase is on. After a high speed pursuit, being shot at and a crash Max and !Konga manage to get away but they are now in dangerous county with no transport and very little water. Max is a particularly strong boy, but he has never had to survive in such a place.

   In this thrilling story the author take us on a danger-filled adventure that is full of surprises. In addition he also explores the survival instincts of two boys who come from completely different worlds. He takes his readers into the environment of the Bushmen and shows readers how fragile their future is. The author’s love of Africa and its people comes through clearly and we are given a powerful picture of Namibia’s beautiful land and people.