Swift and Hawk: Undercover

 
4.0 (3)
 
0.0 (0)
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Swift and Hawk: Undercover
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
10+
Release Date
March 01, 2023
ISBN
9781406394948
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In the second book of this action-packed series, cutting-edge tech meets explosive adventure as young superspies Swift and Hawk take on a dangerous secret organization.

On what should be a routine mission to stop a hack at a tech company, young spies Caleb Swift and Zen Rafiq—code names Swift and Hawk—discover out-of-control weaponized robots threatening to escape into the street. With help from Caleb’s AI companion, Sam, they avoid catastrophe. But this isn’t a one-time incident: a dangerous organization is behind the attack, and now they’re plotting something even more sinister. Fortunately, Zen is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the group. Caleb thinks it’s too dangerous, but who else can climb, fight, and build microbots as well as Zen? Plus, she’ll have Caleb’s incredible tech skills behind her, not to mention the support of the ARC Institute’s elite Möbius Program. Going undercover is a big risk, but with lives on the line, it’s one Swift and Hawk will have to take. Packed with high-octane chases, epic cyber-battles, and the latest gadgets, the second adventure in this exciting series is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Editor reviews

3 reviews
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0(3)
Characters
 
4.0(3)
Writing Style
 
4.0(3)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A(0)
When technology goes rogue
(Updated: December 18, 2023)
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Swift and Hawk are code names for Caleb and Zen, two members of a spy group located at a private school in London. Caleb’s expertise is in computer programming while Zen creates highly advanced robotic creatures. Zen is also more physically fit than most people so her agility, intelligence, and parkour talents will come in very handy to go undercover. A radical group against military weapon production plans an attack on a technology company that almost leads to devastating consequences. This group raises some challenging questions about the issue that may make readers question the business practices of big companies.
Caleb modified a video game his father created that uses an AI he calls Sam. Sam is an additional character since Caleb has programmed some personality parameters that allow it to analyze data and make suggestions. Caleb’s even trying to teach Sam how to be a little more positive when predicting how situations may turn out. Sam can decipher code, explore all areas of the internet, and help Caleb manipulate the technology he encounters. Caleb and Sam work together as a team even though Sam is a product of computer coding.
The book has a creative subplot that could be the focus of a story all by itself. Caleb’s father developed a very popular free video game called Terrorform while Caleb and Sam have improved it. Players can build settlements in the imaginary world but attacks from other players are possible. However, a conflict arises when an unknown group of players join the game and quickly grow to wreak mass destruction. Player groups are common but the transformation, development, and havoc surrounding the Nameless are unprecedented. Caleb has no idea of the identities behind the Nameless or their motives but he suspects a competing game company might be behind it. Regardless, the Nameless are ruining the game experience for all of the other players as their avatars and settlements are being systematically destroyed.
What didn’t work as well:
There is a strong dependency on Sam and he seems almost magical at times. Caleb gets ideas but Sam is often the one who handles the problems. Sam researches information, uses security cameras to monitor suspects and surroundings, and reprograms computers that present problems or obstacles. The human characters would be lost without Sam.
The final verdict:
There is a strong focus on technology so math, science, and computer lovers should enjoy the book. I suggest reading the first book before this one as I felt I wasn’t understanding some references to earlier events. Overall, the story is an exciting adventure and I recommend you give it a shot.
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Adventure and Video Games
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
After their experiences in Swift and Hawk: Cyberspies, Caleb and Zen are back. They are waiting for Zen's family to make it back to London, and go on a mission with Mitch that is supposed to be a straight forward assessment of a hacking job. When they get to the robotics company SolTech, however, they realize that it is much more serious. Not only is there a virus in the code, but it is turning the robots in the factory into killing machines. The three get out safely, but the entire building explodes. It turns out that this is probably connected to the Strikers, a group of antiwar activists who have been targeting all sorts of organizations. The director of Mobius, Ms. Clay, is reluctant to send Zen out into the field, but the Strikers are all very young. Operation Supergiant is born, and Zen breaks into a factory and films a video of her writing graffiti that brings her to the head of the Strikers, Celeste. Zen has a backstory for herself; she's of Syrian descent, and her parents were both killed, so she's against all things war related. She in foster care in a home in Chalk Farm, where Mobius has set up a safe house with the librarian serving as a foster mother. Zen gets accepted into the group and heads off on some of their protests, digging up all of the dirt on the organization. While staying back at the school to keep tabs on Zen's operation, Caleb notices that something is going on with the Terrorform video game. This was put together by Caleb's father before he died, and the artificial intelligence that runs it, Sam, assures that the game can never be used for monetary gain. This is why Caleb hasn't sold it to another company, since it is one of the most popular games. He notices that there is a new clan, but they haven't titled themselves, play 24 hours a day, and seem intent on taking over the game. Sam, who can talk to Caleb and has as much of a personality as AI can, is working with Caleb to find out what the Nameless gamers are up to. Meanwhile, Zen is running into problems with the Strikers, and Mobius isn't telling her that her family is on their way back to London, lest she become distracted. I don't want to spoil what happens, but know that Razor has reared its ugly head again, and it will take another book to figure out what has happened to Sam. A third book, Supernova, comes out in the UK in May, 2024.
Good Points
The Brits and spy books are such a good combination! This was like a tech heavy Alex Rider book, and starts off with a fantastic car chase, complete with a pile of manure. Rapidly moving into the SolTech mission, this really doesn't let up for a second. I very much enjoy the fact that Caleb and Zen have each other. They are a little reluctant, and Mobius (especially Caleb's mother) are always a little reluctant to send kids on missions, but then always make exceptions and send them, which leads me to believe that they aren't really that reluctant! Both Caleb and Zen have a lot of freedom to run around, and there is a ton of technology. Definitely quite the thrilling page turner!

I had trouble caring about the video game being taken over, since I never play video games, but that will be a HUGE draw for young readers. I would have preferred there to be more character development, and to learn more about the dynamics of both Caleb and Zen's families, but that's not as exciting as blowing things up!

Definitely purchasing for my library, and will hand to readers who enjoy spy books like Ponti's City Spies, McNab's Traitor, and my many readers of Muchamore's 2010 CHERUB series. Clearly, there is room for some fresh new spy adventures with new technology!
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Good Balance Between Action and Character Development
(Updated: December 18, 2023)
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
The beginning of the book felt like a James Bond movie. There was thrilling action and nonstop danger for the first few chapters. Then it calmed down enough to add a storyline while keeping the plot moving at a quick pace.
This sequel contained all the action and high-tech gadgetry as the first book but took time to develop the characters making it a more satisfying book overall. Zen and Caleb are no longer cut off with little support. They are now part of a unit with actual adult supervision and safety nets in place. This also chafes Caleb’s style a bit who got used to relying on his take on a situation and acting instantly. There is also a lot less profanity which will open the potential audience up for this book.
In book one, the characters were amazing at everything they did. Their gadgets worked perfectly which led to pleasing action sequences. This book took time to push the characters and put them outside of their comfort zones so it felt more believable. Zen must go undercover to try and stop terrorists. She has a difficult balance to maintain when she starts to agree with many of their beliefs. Caleb’s game, Terrorform, is having problems and he doesn’t find out until it is too late that the reason is more sinister than he realized.
The final sequence connects books one and two and sets the plot for book three. Our characters are going to be pushed to their limits to solve the problem presented. Overall, this book has great action sequences and high-tech spy gadgets making it a high-interest book for Middle-Grade readers.
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