TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Are you familiar with the legend of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the sacred sword, Excalibur? If you're interested in a modern take on that ancient story, then "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp" may be the book for you. Alfred, the title character, is a sixteen year-old who has recently lost his mom to cancer. Alfred has bounced around to a few different foster homes, before ultimately ending up in Knoxville, Tennessee at the house of his Uncle Farrell. Alfred, who is neither popular nor a great student, reluctantly agrees to help his uncle steal a sword from Samson Towers, the office building where Farrell is the night security guard. Farrell is to receive $1 million from the very shady Mr. Arthur Myers for "returning" the sword to him. Of course, things go horribly wrong, and all too late Alfred realizes that he has helped a truly evil man acquire a weapon of awesome power. No army or device — no matter how advanced — can stand up to the sword's power.
Alfred then embarks on a mission with Bennacio, an older man who is a keeper of the sword and a descendant of one of the original Knights of the Round Table. On their way from Tennessee to Canada to England, Alfred and Bennacio are chased by all manner of bad guys in an assortment of very cool vehicles, including helicopters, Ferraris, and tricked-out motorcycles. It all builds up to a big showdown in the cave of Merlin between the wretched Arthur Myers (whose real name is Mogart) and the teenage Alfred Kropp.
As mentioned, this story contains many elements from the King Arthur legend, and they're nicely updated for a modern story. The book moves at a very fast pace, with each short chapter packed with dialogue and action. Alfred is a good character to follow, since he's sort of a regular kid who gets caught up in a battle to save the world. While there's a good deal of violence here, it's mostly just mentioned and not described in any detail. There's also a nice theme running through the story about taking responsibility for your decisions (including bad ones, like Alfred stealing the sword) and moving past your mistakes. This book might be a good choice for middle school readers who are fans of the "Alex Rider" series. If you like it, "Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon" is due out in the Spring of 2007. In the meantime, check out the Alfred Kropp website.