Russian Roulette
Anthony Horowitz

An international contract killer has been given his orders. His next target is a fourteen-year-old spy ... Alex Rider. The man's name is Yassen Gregorovich. He knows Alex well. The two of them share a secret from the past. As he considers his next mission, Yassen remembers the forces that turned him from an ordinary schoolboy into a hired assassin. What is it that makes someone choose to do evil? What would it take to make them kill? This thrilling adventure will be the deadliest yet...

"Could you sympathise with a cold-blooded killer? What if that cold-blooded killer was planning to assassinate a 14 year-old boy? And what if that 14 year-old boy was Alex Rider, one of the best-loved heroes of children's literature? What's impressive about Anthony Horowitz's new book, 'Russian Roulette', is that, for me, the answer to all those questions is yes. Horowitz has created a powerful and original story in which the bad guy is not only the 'hero', but also someone you wish you could save." Rachel Hamilton

"Anthony Horowitz delivers every time. And I am truly glad he does. Russian Roulette is as good as any Alex Rider featuring book with the story focusing on a young Gregorovich and how he came to become a part of Scorpia. It is a heartfelt story and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction in the end." Ria Majumdar
Arman, from St James Catholic High School

The book begins with Alex’s old enemy Yassen Gregorovich going to his hotel room to receive a task that’s been sent via his computer. This is what it says: KILL ALEX RIDER. He then goes to open his diary on his computer and starts reading it.

This book contains all the detail of Yassen’s life, from the virus ‘Anthrax’ contaminating him, all the way to slavery.  This really goes into detail of Yassen Gregorovich’s life. But since this is a review I cannot tell you more.

This is the best book in all the Alex Rider Series. Maybe, even the best book in the world!

The good points of this book are that this book has action, suspense and not too much romance!

I really recommend this book to all Alex Rider fans or book fans who really like action, adventure, suspense and a thrilling adventure! But this book does contain some sadness (can’t tell you what happens because this is obviously a review).

You don’t have to be a book fan to get gripped into this grippingly gripping book!

I also recommend you read the book Alex Rider: Stormbreaker and the other Alex Rider books in the series to make this book make more sense.

Also this means I can end the review like this:


Beatrice, from Wren Academy Barnet

Russian Roulette is another part of the Alex Rider story. This time, a contract killer is out for Alex. But this is no ordinary contract killer, if there is such a thing: this man knows Alex well.

This book makes you empathise with a seemingly cold-blooded killer, something I thought I could never do. It is cleverly told from the perspective of evil, and makes you think about the motives behind a killer.

Overall I would rate this book 8 out of 10, and it is told from a very interesting perspective that you wouldn’t normally find in a YA book. 

I think Alex Rider fans would prefer this book to me, as I sometimes didn’t understand the back story.

Behdad, from East Barnet School

Russian Roulette is the personal diary of cold-blooded killer Yassen Gregorovich. The story starts from when Yassen lives in the petite town called Estrov situated in the south-west of Russia. Everything is normal until one day the factory that Yassen’s parents work in explodes... 

Personally, I was sceptical to read this book as I am not a fan of the Alex Rider series. However, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the book especially the style it was written in. But, on the other hand, I must admit I did not get properly engrossed into the book until about a quarter of the way in; this was because I think there was too much unnecessary description.  Nevertheless, I definitely applaud the way that the story flowed perfectly and the transition of an innocent 14-year-old village boy to a ruthless assassin. I would say that the only major negativity was that the diary ended too soon. I cannot say why because it will spoil the story but you will understand given you have read the book. Therefore, overall I am giving Russian Roulette an Unputdownability of 8!     

Caterina, from St James Catholic High School

An exciting thrill ride which just happens to be the prequel to the brilliant Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz has done it again with this book. Russian Roulette gives Alex Rider fans a chance to find out about the characters’ backgrounds. We learn who Yasseen is and who he was, finding out about his past and how he met, and was made to kill Alex Rider. For its fast-paced, breakneck pace throughout the middle of the story, and all the twists and turns the readers face, I rate this book 5/5. As well as 5 stars. The Alex Rider series is now 100% complete.

Gabriella, from St James Catholic High School

Russian Roulette is an excellent story from Anthony Horowitz. It’s about a boy, Yasha, whose hometown has been decimated by an awful disease. He has lost all his family and friends and is being hunted down by the Russian police. He completely changes his identity. He goes from living on the streets to becoming a robber, a slave and a first class assassin’s assistant.

So when he is asked to do something that nobody would choose to do he is left with the dilemma to do it and live, or not to do it and die? You will have to read the book to find the answer.

I loved it, it’s such a moving story. I read it for hours on end and found myself crying for many of them. My favourite part was when Yasha comes back for revenge on Sharakowski.

I would definitely recommend this book and I give it a straight 10/10. So what are you waiting for?

Hannah, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Russian Roulette is about a young man called Yassen Gregorovitch. His home, a small village in Russia called Estrov, was destroyed when he was 14 years old. This forced him to flee Estrov. We watch as Yassen goes from being a young innocent schoolboy to a thief, then to a food taster for a very rich man, and he ends up as a very dangerous contract killer (paid assassin).

I really enjoyed Russian Roulette. Despite a slow start, I soon felt very involved in the book and found it hard to put down. Russian Roulette is full of action which I really enjoyed. Overall I absolutely loved Russian Roulette and would definitely recommend it.

Jacob, from Jewish Community Secondary School

This book is about a hired assassin called Yassen Gregorovich. He has a new job to kill a fourteen year-old boy. You may think it is mad but you find out that it is Alex Rider, one of the most treasured agents for MI6. Yassen has a memory stick written in Russian about how he got from a young boy to a most famous assassin. It starts when Yassen is on the run. When he gets pulled into a big organisation called Scorpia he then works with Alex’s dad, who was a double agent, and he becomes the most famous assassin ever. I adore the Alex Rider series as it is an amazing series that has now finished. I'd give it a 10/10. A fact is that this was supposed to be the first book in the series but it ended up being last.   

James, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Many people have called Alex Rider the “teenage equivalent of James Bond”. However, I don’t think the term applies as the descriptions and backgrounds of the characters between Anthony Horowitz and Ian Fleming are like comparing the finest stallion in the land with a three-legged donkey. Horowitz has somehow managed to transform Yassen Gregorovich (originally Yasha Gregorovich) from a single-minded assassin to a misunderstood man, despite leaving a hint of resentment towards him. In the epilogue of “Snakehead” (book 7 of the series) Anthony Horowitz focuses on how important it is to get the right name for each and every character; and this is no exception with plenty of new people such as Vladimir Sharkovsky: the man who “employs” Mr. Gregorovich and also is the first person Yassen kills. This is very easily the best prequel I have read in a long time, as the author has managed to not only equal but succeed the other nine books in both pace and passion. Any doubt of the occurrences in the book will be explained using one word: destiny. Like both Alex Rider and Yassen Gregorovich, Russian Roulette is destined to go far.

Millie May, from Copthall School, Barnet

Russian Roulette has an interesting concept: what makes a killer? I won’t lie to you, this is not a genre of book I would usually go for. I was hardly familiar with it, therefore I had little to compare this to. Nevertheless the journey the character Yassen (Yasha) Gregorovich underwent throughout a single novel was quite simply remarkable.

The plot was unpredictable and as far as I know fairly unique. It lacked cliché, but had no lack of puzzling, some would say “villain” like, characters. One of the features that struck me most about this book was its pace, so well-paced – I assume that comes with experience. I liked the fact that there was detail, but only important detail, to emphasize a point sometimes, to hint at what was yet to come in other instances. This unpredictable chain of events was incredibly effective. 

Yassen Gregorovich changed gradually, a little after each event, after he became acquainted with each person or life style, after each little betrayal. I do not suppose you (as a reader) could blame him for the way he turned out, all said and done.  I’d say he survived, but at what cost? It was a little surprising how innocent he started out as, it made his corruption harder to bear, as a reader.

I liked the way the title referred to a certain aspect or dynamic to the novel. It was great how the author and character never seemed to let go, the large effect the beginning had on the final outcome, this sort of dwelling was so chillingly human. The entire tale was quite thrilling really.

Did this tempt me to read more by the author, I ask myself (remember I am familiar with neither the author nor the genre)? The answer is yes it did just that: tempt, but not push me with full force into the next library desperate and hungry for more. I did really like this book, but despite its great concept, it didn’t leave me with enough to shout “five stars” to be brutally honest. It was great for what it was, but easy enough to forget.

So I would rate Russian Roulette as a four star novel, but the lack of the final star is mainly due to my personal preferences and reading habits. I’m not used to the genre. But the WeRead books are of such high standard this year, so well selected, more of a variety of themes to last year’s selection in my opinion. I hope you know what a delight this sort of event is for an avid reader such as myself. But more to the point – a breathtaking book.

Nabeeha, from Copthall School, Barnet

Russian Roulette is definitely a book I'd read over and over again if I had to - but why would I? A book should be that great that it sticks in the reader's mind and the smallest of detail would be remembered if the novel was only read once. Horowitz has that touch in the novels he writes to make them original and also exciting to read. What's the point of a novel that's not exciting to read and doesn't have the twists and turns in the plot that is cleverly designed that makes it a real page-turner? Russian Roulette definitely isn't that type of novel. I personally like it as it is my type of book that I’d pick up and is my favourite genre and has the elements of spies, action, adventure and killing. I'm a big fan of the Alex Rider series and jumped at the opportunity to read the prequel to it. I found the plot interesting and it was carefully developed and captured to make it what it is.

Russian Roulette is from the point of view from Yasha - now known as Yassen Gregorobich. It is a diary of his life which begins in Estrov, Russia - the city he grew up in - to his journey as an assassin in Scorpia. As a horrible anthrax breaks out Yassen is forced to flee his home in Estrov to Moscow after being injected with an antidote found by his parents. Yassen grows up in Moscow only surviving by stealing, sticking close to his only friends, drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes.

He then gets employed for work after a break in a rich apartment owned by Vladimire Sharkovsky. He is made to clean, work, do manual labour and is a food taster for three years before getting involved in a killing by a man who's from Scorpia and from there his Scorpia career begins.

I can't find any flaws in this novel which describes the real dangers and emotions of killing through fiction and as a reader I think it is perfect. The plot, the way it's written, the amount of detail is not too much but isn't lacking in it and the characters are vivid and the detail of the death and killing almost seem real - as if Horowitz has done the killing himself and is describing the great detail of it and it stays in the reader's mind and imagination for weeks to come.

A book by an author I admire, who writes how I like the way novels are. A comparison I'd give to Horowitz is of a blacksmith. Horowitz’s swords are his novels. Once burned in a furnace his ideas and plots take shape and come to life, but after they are shaped, sharpened and engraved, the novels are flawless.

Nathaniel , from St James Catholic High School

Russian Roulette is a good book, about Yassen Gregorovich, a boy who lost his parents and home when he was 14, and had to go through many hardships. In the end, he becomes a contract killer, and is assigned to kill Alex Rider, who has close relations to him. The book is in the style of a flashback of Yassen’s life, describing the steps he took towards becoming a contract killer. I think this book is good because it keeps you in suspense and is quite exciting!

Rosslynne, from St James Catholic High School

I read the book Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz; it changed my life, it was so good. I loved the part when in the prologue before the kill, you get a feel for what Yassen’s life is like and you learn about being a contract killer. How careful he has to be to not get killed, so he trusts no one, and never lets his guard down. And then his boss orders him to kill his long-term friend Alex Rider, a fourteen-year-old boy just because he messed up.

Reading this book has changed my life because I used to not like reading - I hated it. Then I read this book and now reading is something I do regularly. So thank you Anthony Horowitz, and I hope in the future you will keep writing these amazing books.

I specifically liked the tension between Alex and Yassen because Yassen killed Alex’s father and now he wants revenge. Alex knows it will be hard because Alex’s father trained Yassen so it will be hard but he will do it in memory of his father.

Russian Roulette is a great book full of mystery, it is eye-popping and a page turner. I am so glad I read this book because now I read every day on my nook.

Sophie, from Wren Academy Barnet

As a long time fan of Anthony Horowitz I was more than excited to (finally) read this book. Then I was astounded by how much sympathy I had for an international contract killer. This book gave me a real appreciation for how the line between good and evil is not clear-cut; in fact it is perhaps the blurriest line there is. 

The whole book was based on betrayal. Both physically being betrayed and feeling betrayed by someone you care about, which shaped the life of the protagonist Yassen Gregorovitch. Although at first Yassen does not believe he can be an assassin, he discovers that the thirst for justice over the death of his parents makes killing the culprit possible.

I feel this book taught me an important lesson: if you do an evil thing (like Yassen) it does not make you an evil person, as sometimes evil is a matter of where you stand. To Yassen killing the person who killed his parents was not evil, to friends and family of the man Yassen killed it was. 

I found this book thoroughly enjoyable and would love to read it again. 

Stuti, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

I thought this book was a little strange. It is perhaps one of the weirdest because I found myself sympathising with a very harsh and blunt murderer who had plans for killing a 14 year-old boy. It’s a very powerful and depressing book about a killer who is surprisingly the hero of the story and with whom all the readers will sympathise.

Anthony Horowitz presents a very predictable irony in the story. The person who tries to save Yaseen (the killer) the most from his internal and external pressures to kill Alex Rider is the same person whose actions lead Yaseen to kill. I really enjoyed the storyline of this book and thought it was extremely clever. A bit of online research suggests that this book is in fact a sequel to many of the Alex Rider books. Having read this book, I would actually try to get hold of the previous books to understand the entire story. Although this was one of the saddest books I have read so far, I had never read one so unique like this before!

My Rating: 4/5

Tal, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Could you sympathise with a cold-blooded killer?

What if that cold-blooded killer was planning to assassinate a 14-year-old boy?

And what if that 14 year-old boy was Alex Rider, one of the best-loved heroes of children’s literature?

What’s impressive about Anthony Horowitz’s new book, Russian Roulette, is that, for me, the answer to all those questions is yes.  Horowitz has created a powerful and original story in which the bad guy is not only the ‘hero’, but also someone you wish you could save.

Some may question the morality of a children’s book that makes young readers empathise so strongly with a contract killer, but I found Horowitz’s exploration of what might cause a child to grow up to become a deadly assassin to be sensitively handled and one of the reasons why, for me, this is the best book he’s written.

In interviews going back several years, Anthony Horowitz has frequently mentioned his desire to tell the story of Yassen Gregorovich – the arch-villain from the first four Alex Rider books – and that’s exactly what he does in ‘Russian Roulette’.

As he prepares to complete his mission to ‘Kill Alex Rider’, Yassen opens his personal diary (I know, I know, this seems like a dubious framing device, but it’s stored on a memory stick and disguised as a car key, so it’s a manly murderer type of diary, okay?). We read in horror as disaster after disaster befalls young ‘Yasha’ – orphaned by anthrax, imprisoned by a man with a swastika tattoo and tight speedos, and indoctrinated by Scorpia.

The interesting thing is that although we know what Yassen will become, we continue to root for him as he fights the intense external and internal pressures to kill. And the great irony is that the person who tries hardest to save Yassen from this cold heartless fate is the one whose actions finally push Yassen to kill.

Horowitz is a skilled writer and manages to give this fast-paced thriller a depth and intelligence that raise complex moral and philosophical questions for young readers, even while they’re being hurtled on a headlong rush through disaster and adventure at break-neck speed.

An impressive achievement. A compelling character portrait. A great book.

Zinnia, from Wren Academy Barnet

Russian Roulette was an extremely tense novel filled with lots of twists! This book tells the story of Yassen Gregorovich, a contract assassin from a tiny town in Russia. When he was young, his parents got killed by the very weapon they were creating and when Yassen travels to Moscow, he doesn’t find any help there. With the authorities on his case, he makes friends with a small group of thieves on the streets. When they try to burgle the flat of Vladimir Sharkovsky, things turn from bad to worse when Yassen gets caught and taken away to Sharkovsky’s home to work there as a servant for the rest of his life. 

This book was filled with so many thrilling twists I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, I fell off it! Every time we think Yassen has gotten out of trouble, he just goes and gets in some more! I felt the book could have been a bit shorter in places but that is my only criticism. In certain parts, the book seemed quite gory to me, so I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under the age of 10. I found this book gripping and definitely full of shocks and surprises!