Lex Trent Fighting With Fire is the second book by Alex Bell about the eponymous Lex Trent, a thief and a scoundrel with very few scruples. In this novel he is about to start participation in the second set of Games, three challenges set by the Gods for their respective heroes and companions. He cannot resist the idea of taking part - both because he hates the thought of anyone taking his title and also because his own Goddess has set one of the tasks in the Wild West, giving Lex the opportunity to try and steal the legendary Sword of Life. With the trusty (or not!) Jesse at his side, Lex heads off to pretend to be a cowboy!
I enjoyed the first Lex Trent novel a great deal, and I'm pleased to report that Lex Trent Fighting With Fire is even better. In this novel Bell brings to the story an incredibly whimsical tone. There are shades of Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll in the nature of the writing, and Bell has a level of imagination that stands up to these literary greats.
There are absurd moments that brought to mind Monty Python, such as the dreaded fire-breathing bunnies and the waistcoated fox called Plantagenet. Through the whole of the book, the greatest sense you have is that Bell had the most enormous fun writing it - and it is just astonishingly fun to read.
Honestly, who wouldn't love a book that has such snippets as: "He'd purchased them before he left because, as any thief or con man knows, disguises are very important. Not to mention ridiculously fun."
Lex Trent is just as annoyingly self-centred and immodest. Seriously, you don't know whether to shake him or love him. On the whole, I fell on the side of loving him but there were occasions in this novel where I felt he trod a very fine line to being disliked by readers - especially because I believed that Lex had found a little remorse at the end of the first Games. Here he is back to his obnoxious best, which grates at times, but, on the whole, is enormously entertaining.
The secondary characters that Bell introduces in this book are a big strength. Jeremiah and Jesse are both rich with details, and easy to like. The former is a toff, with connections to Lex Trent's family - he is stuck-up, arrogant and gets on Lex's bad side from the start with an incredibly funny prank (that anyone who has been to university will recognise!) The latter is a drawling, laid-back character who plays Lex at his own game. Both were memorable and ensured that the plot kept driving forwards.
Having written two novels that involve the Games, Bell does risk repetition if she goes the same route in a third book of the series, but I suspect she had greater plans going by the last few pages - and I will enjoy stepping away from the format that has been followed in the first two novels.
This is not a perfect book, but it is damn fine. I enjoyed every minute I spent back in the world of Lex Trent and I'm just sad now that I have to wait for a year or longer to read more about the sneaky cheat. Both Lex Trent novels come highly recommended, and are very suitable for younger readers as well as YA. I certainly plan on getting my twelve year old nephew involved!
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