The Seal of Solomon - Alfred Kropp 2
by Rick Yancey
Review by Ernest Lilley
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1599900459
Date: 01 May, 2007 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Alfred Kropp is your typical misfit teen, just like you are (or were), except for being the last descendant of Lancelot and the secret weapon of an international spy organization out to save the world from paranormal terrors. Alfred can put up with being hassled by other kids, but he hates being bored. So, being kidnapped, pushed out of a plane, and looking into the eyes of a demon to save the world from destruction, or worse, has it's upside…it isn't dull.
Who is Alfred Kropp? Well, that depends on who's asking. If you're asking about the big gawky kid in your high school that everyone likes to pick on in, so much so that they invented a game called "Kropping" where you get points for playing tricks on him, that's all you really need to know. He's just another misfit foster kid living with folks who don't like him much, suspect he's not quite right in the head, and care more about the checks than the kids. Oh, and the other important thing is that he's willing to put up with a lot, so he's a good target for cowards.
On the other hand, if you're asking about the last descendant of Lancelot, anointed as the "master of the sword" by the archangel Michael, whose blood has healing powers, is involved with an international spy organization, and has a beautiful blonde agent assigned to look out for him, well…if that's the one you're talking about, you already knew who he was and depending on your point of view, he's either you're biggest problem, or humanity's best hope for putting a few legions of demons back in their bottle.
Neither, of course is the real Kropp. The real Kropp is a kid who's just trying to get by, doesn't much like being manipulated by foster parents, secret spy organizations, demons, or rogue agents with schemes of world domination. He would like to find a friend he can count on and maybe live long enough to kiss a girl. In other words, he's a normal kid, just like you are, or were, but if the world needs saving, and he's got a shot at it, well, that's better than being bored anyway. And he hates being bored.
This is Alfred's second book, and we get his back-story when he unloads to a school psychiatrist, where he explains about being the scion of Lancelot, rescuing Excalibur, meeting archangels, dying, resurrecting, and having healing blood all at once. I mean, it's not like a psychiatrist is going to believe you, so you might as well tell him the truth. Just don't take the meds he prescribes.
Alfred is again pitted against rogue agent Mike Arnold who left the Office of Interdimensional Paradoxes and Extraordinary Phenomenon (OIPEP, henceforth refered to as "The Company") to become the bad guy, and who incidentally stole a few of their most powerful ancient artifacts, specifically the one in the book's title, the seal of Solomon.
"The Greater Seal, or the Seal of Solomon, is a ring…the Company recovered it in the 1950s from a now defunct apocalyptic death-cult in the Sudan…."No Alfred, you haven't see it…but you're about to star in it. And your role as action adventure hero, jumping out of planes into the dark, racing snowmobiles over the desert sand, shooting at demons with exotic weapons (unfortunately, you can't actually kill something that never lived, but you can slow them down a bit) and maybe even kissing the girl….well, all that's in store for you here.
Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon has been sitting in my to-be-read pile for a while. Its cover is frankly cheesy, and I keep picking it up to toss aside as something I'll never get to…but something in the blurb on the back, or the overly dramatic cover makes me hesitate…and eventually (though I wish it had been sooner) flip open the first page. Since Rick Yancey's tale of teen action pretty much takes off from the first word, that's all it took for me to get hooked. When I was a teen, along with SF, I read a lot of spy novels, that being a hot genre at the time. There were even teen spies; complete with their own high budget gear (my favorite drove a jag). This reminds me (fondly) of that. It's a blending of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, James Bond, Citizen of the Galaxy… and more…all fused together into an adventure starring a very likeable misfit that all too many of us can identify with.
It's ironic that Arnold is tasked with putting the "Outcasts of Heaven" back in their cell, because he's a classic outcast from the world of "normal" teens himself. My only complaint about the book is that I'd like a female version of Alfred as well. I'm not saying it's the author's job to give equal time to girls, and it's not like there's any shortage of competent female figures in the book, but I'd hate to think that female YA readers will miss out on the action…and the message by not having a character standing in for them.
The target audience for these adventures is YA readers…or even non-readers, since the action and adventure will suck almost anyone in, and the search for meaning in the face of existential isolation will subtly affect the reader long after the last bad guy is faced down. If you harbor an inner kid, and I know you do, buy this book…read it cover to cover just to make sure it's appropriate…and give a copy to a teen. Just don't expect them to do any homework until they've finished reading it.