H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute of Villainous Education) is a top-secret school of applied villainy where children with a precocious gift for wrongdoing are sent to develop their talents into criminal mastermind. After all, 'villains have the best lines and wear the best costumes'. One small catch is that the children cannot leave until training is complete, six years later. With villainy comes a certain freedom of thought, and every year one student in particular will show exceptional talent - after all, it takes the best to produce the worst. This year there are two students: Otto Malpense and his new friend Wing Fanchu are both exceptionally bad, and they are definitely not keen on being held against their will for six long years . . .
Otto is less than happy to be removed from his life, and taken to enrol in a school for evil genius children. With his friends Wing, Laura and Shelby, they decide that escape is the only option but the staff are determined that nobody leaves the island. Can Otto and his friends outwit the school and get away?
I really enjoyed this book. Otto was selected for the school after he was able to force the Prime Mininster to insult the people of Britain in a speech and moon at startled journalists! He is smarter than Artemis Fowl but similar in his plotting, though Otto has no plans to be evil. His friend Wing is a martial arts expert, Laura is skilled with computers and Shelby was an international jewel thief, along with Nigel, son of a famous recently murdered villain who likes dangerous plants and Franz, the fat boy with a food obsession. Franz is very funny and his difficulties with English slang are amusing-I just wish we had seen a bit more of him! As Nigel searches for a way to cope with his dad's fame, Franz searches for vending machines...
The school itself is fascinating as they learn stealth, evasion, code breaking, grappling and everything a bad guy needs to know. Their teachers include Ms Leon, stuck in the body of a cat, the absentminded Professor Pike, the mind controlling Contessa, the lethal assassin Raven as well as headmaster Dr Nero. Although everyone is 'bad' you just can't help liking all the characters-pupils and staff. One of my favourites is H.I.V.E Mind, the AI who runs the school complex-he's just so nice and everyone keeps threatening to destroy the poor guy!
The whole idea of the escape is very clever and I like the way Otto plans and excutes everything. The action scenes in the book are excellent, especially the battle of Frankenflower! That was really good.
This is not a book for young kids-it's action packed YA with lots of exciting fights and incidents, well developed and entertaining characters, and a mixture of drama and humour that will also appeal to adult readers. I'm looking forward to reading the next books in the series to see what Otto and his friends get up to!