I am in love with villains. They are usually my favorite part of any novel. “Doro” from Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed and Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series (especially since he is being portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the upcoming movie) are two of my favorites. Because of my love of a good villian, I was excited to read Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius.
It attempts to answers fascinating questions. What if there was a university that served to educate the evil geniuses of the world. Who would the teachers be? What subjects would they cover? What would the students be like? Likewise, what would happen if you put all these evil geniuses, teachers and students, in the same place?
The novel starts out simplly enough and a little misleadingly as the reader is introduced to Cadel Piggot, a seven year old genius who has a habit of dismantling his adoptive parents’ security system, hacking into high-security computer networks, power grids, and bill pay services. This atypical behavior lands Cadel in trouble with the law. As a consequence, he is referred to Dr. Thaddeus Roth, a renowned psychologist for troubled children.
Dr. Thaddeus Roth is not your everyday child psychologist. He takes his troubled patients and encourages their antisocial behaviors. Giving the children three words of advice: never get caught, never admit to anything, and never trust anyone.
Immediately Cadel Piggott’s world is turned upside down as the blonde, doe-eyed, genius connects with someone. Six years later, at the age of thirteen, he graduates from high school and with the suggestion of Dr. Thaddeus Roth, Cadel is enrolled in the Axis Institute. It is a university that from the outside looks like any modern, privately funded college but is actually a school for the evil-inclined: Axis Institute for World Domination. Yes, A Hogwarts for modern-day evil people.
The first years include a set of twins known as Jemima and Niobe Johnson. The twins communicate telepathically, possess a cruel streak, and they are ever so good at shoplifting. Then there is Abraham Coggins, a paranoid young man whose sole mission in life is to create a race of vampires. Then there is Clive Slaughter, who has the ability to start fires. Least of all, I say least because he doesn’t have an evil bone in his body, is Cazo Kovacs, who emits a smell so vile people are rendered unconscience.
In the begining, Cadel feels at home with his new classmates. But one person keeps him from achieving his full evil genius potential and that is Kay-Lee. With the help, love and support of Kay-Lee, Cadel is able to see the Axis Institute and Dr. Roth for what they are. But can he get away from them before he is destroyed?
Catherine Jinks has a great writing style and I was hooked from the beginning. I have to give Jinks kudos. The first two chapters were a perfect mix of style, description, and character development. Being in love with her writing helped pull me forward doing the middle, when there were all sorts of complicated plans working through Cadel's mind.
This book is recommended for Teens (Ages 12 and up) and I would agree. Some of the computer jargon was hard to read and I have an engineering degree. There was also many instances of death in the book that pretty flippantly depicted. Jenks tried to linger on the deaths but it was pretty hard because there were so many deaths. Yes, these characters were truly evil.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who remotely liked Harry Potter and especially for anyone who secretly (or not so secretly) dreams of being an evil genius! For fun go to Axis Institute, take the quiz, and see if you qualify for an evil genius. Sadly, I didn't.
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