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"For official purposes, these children do not exist."
The CHERUB Series is a British series about teenage spies, in the same vein as Alex Rider and Young Bond. It centres around a secret organisation which takes orphans with extraordinary intelligence and physical abilities, and trains them into government agents. The organisation has been in existence since shortly after WW 2 and at the time of the books has several hundred agents.
The main characters are James Adams, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a deliberate parody of James Bond, and his more mature and responsible little sister, Lauren Adams. Other CHERUB agents and staff also play a major role throughout the series.
The series can be considered something of a deconstruction of the teenage spy series, as it takes great care to consider the repercussions of the Cherubs being teenagers, and hence not always particularly responsible.
- The Recruit
- Class A
- Maximum Security
- The Killing
- Divine Madness
- Man vs Beast
- The Fall
- Mad Dogs
- The Sleepwalker
- The General
- Brigands M.C.
- Shadow Wave
- People's Republic (August 2011)
- Guardian Angel (2012)
- Black Friday (2013)
A second series of books, focussing on a different set of protagonists, but with a few older characters also making appearances, follows the first series.
Casting for a movie version is under way. It is not known which book, or how many, will be adapted.
- Abusive Parents - Lauren's dad
- Action Girl - Most of the female leads.
- AKA-47 - The infamous Glock 9, though this was an author mistake instead of being on purpose
- Affably Evil - Many of the villains, most notably Keith Moore of Class A.
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels - This is arguably the central plot device of Brigands M.C and the first part of Shadow Wave. Both books depict biker culture as consisting almost exclusively of thugs like the Brigands (Fictional Counterpart to the Hell Angels) and their allied and rival gangs.
- Animal Wrongs Group - Help Earth (in Divine Madness and The Recruit) and the ALF (in Man vs Beast).
- Arms Dealer - A favorite villain of the CHERUB series, which is not surprising considering Britain's paranoia about guns. The Führer and many of his associates in Brigands M.C. and Shadow Wave are Gangland Gun Runners. Jane Oxford in Maximum Security is an International Arms Merchant. Dennis Obdin is a Former Red With Rockets for Sale. In Shadow Wave it is somewhat inverted, in that Tan Abdullah is a Minister of Defense looking to import weapons from Britain rather than export weapons.
- Arrogant Kung Fu Guy - Bruce Norris.
- Author Appeal -
SoccerAssociation football is frequently mentioned, and even plays a central roll in Mad Dogs. Several characters, including the main character James, are huge fans of Arsenal, reflecting Robert Muchmore's own person fanaticism for the Gunners. At one point, James almost starts a fight with fans of an opposing team.
- Badass Biker - See the All Bikers Are Hells Angels entry. Also, James poses an a Badass Biker in order to infiltrate the Brigands. The act is helped by the fact that he really is a Badass and he really does like motor bikes.
- Berserk Button - Don't ever say anything bad about James's mother.
- British Education System - The major characters are for the most part all British school kids, so features of the British Education System like A-levels and GCSE exams play an important role.
- British English - Books written by a Briton, for Britons, about Britons, so you can expect pretty much everything to be British English, even when depicting Australians, and sometimes even when depicting Americans.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center - Bruce again; as hardcore as he seems, he still goes to bed with a little blue teddy bear.
- Boarding School - CHERUB Campus is something of a boarding school, in that the students all live on Campus. However, because they are all orphans, Campus is their full time home, not just a place that their parents ship them off to during most of the year. It is also not particularly snobbish, posh or upper class in its culture, even if it is rather well funded and well equipped.
- Church of Happyology - The Survivors in Divine Madness.
- CIA Evil, FBI Good - Inverted. Intelligence agents tend to be brave heroes doing a tough job with minimal causalities. Regular police - except those who work with the Intelligence Services of course - are usually stupid, arrogant, violent and generally in need of a good kicking.
- Children Are Innocent - Robert Muchamore's entire writing career seems to be built on averting that trope. His kids almost always have some degree of lust, sadism, sarcasm, disrespect to authority, and profanity.
- Children Forced to Kill - In Class A, James shoots and accidentally kills a gang member in self defense, and is later shown to need counselling, and in Divine Madness, Dana is forced to help with the murder of two (adult) Intelligence agents. There are also several near misses over the course of the series.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive - Multiple examples
- Cute Bruiser - CHERUB's train in advance martial arts from a very young age.
- Child Soldiers - CHERUB's are intended to be more spies than soldiers, but they do get weapons training and tactical training.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster! - James almost falls for this in Class A and Brigands M.C. It doesn't help that his mother was the shoplifting ring leader and James has strong chav tendencies.
- Darker and Edgier - Generally, the first series of books gets darker and edgier as it progresses, this is partially because the protagonists are also aging and thus is not only allowed on more dangerous missions but also has to deal with the typical social problems (e.g. sex) as they arise.
- Deliberately Cute Child - Lauren Adams pulls this act a few times in the early books when she is young enough to get away with it.
- Designated Hero: James sometimes falls into this, though he usually gets called out.
- Detective Mole - Michael Patel, who is a Dirty Cop, tampered with evidence to cover up a murder that he committed.
- Did Not Do the Research and Rule of Cool - The level of realism is really hit and miss, and there are several examples of innacurate potrayals of firearms, explosives, aircraft, and how the intelligence services, police and military function.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty - Mr. Large
- Eating Lunch Alone - James has to do that at one point when he is being temporarily shunned by his friends.
- Engineered Public Confession - Used as a tactic a few times
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting – All the Cherubs know martial arts, some better than others.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex - Pretty much all the teens above the age of 16 (legal age for the UK) and even a few under. The obsession with teenage sexuality makes one wonder if Robert Muchamore is merely playing to the audience and trying to be realistic, or if there is some Author Appeal going on.
- Everybody Hates Mathematics - Averted. James loves maths.
- Faking and Entering - A favorite tactic of CHERUB, where searches and planting bugs are disguised as buglarlies or vandalism perpetrated by teenage hooligans
- First Girl Wins: At the end of the series, James and Kerry wind up together, and it's implied he even gets his act together, as although Kerry thinks he cheated on her during college, he never did.
- Food Fight - A major food fight in one of the books gets several character in trouble
- Free-Range Children - CHERUB agents have adult supervision, but are often given along leash and are allowed to get away with a lot, both during missions and on Campus.
- Fun with Acronyms - CHERUB stands for Charles Henderson's Espionage Research Unit B.
- Fur and Loathing - The most notable example is in Shadow Wave where one of the characters is a fur wearing Rich Bitch fasion model and wife of a corrupt politician. Of course, Lauren, being a vegan, has this attitude toward leather as well.
- Gadgeteer Genius - Terry Cambell, director of the CHERUB Technical Department.
- Gay Aesop - James gradually learns to become more tolerate of Kyle's homosexuality.
- Genius Bruiser - You have to be at CHERUB.
- Get Into Jail Free - In one of the books, James Adam's assignment is to go undercover in an Arizonan maximum security juvenile prison and engineer the escape of himself and one of the juvenile inmates. The plan is that the inmate he is helping them escape will lead them to his fugitive mother, a wanted international black market arms dealer. He does this by posing as a juvenile with a felony record, which is faked by the FBI.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot - Two girls makeout at a Wild Teen Party in Brigands M.C., much to the delight of some of the teenage boys.
- Government Agency of Fiction - CHERUB is obviously fictional, and MI-5 is frequently depicted in a fictionalized way.
- The Good Old British Comp - The series depicts several schools, but pretty much all of them follow the common stereotypes described in this trope. Some are bad enough to qualify as an Inner-City School
- Good with Numbers - James, who basically has a calculator in his head.
- Granola Girl - Lauren Adams
- Great Escape - In Maximum Security, James's assignment is to go undercover in an Arizona maximum security juvenile prison and engineer the escape of himself and one of the inmates. The fact that the FBI and one of the prison guards is supporting him makes the escape a lot easier.
- Harmful to Minors - Too many examples to list, but perhaps the worse involves a young child seeing his entire family brutally murdered.
- Hidden Wire - A favorite tool of CHERUB
- Home Base - CHERUB Campus, which also serves as Mission Control.
- Infant Immortality - Despite being a series about children being put in dangerous situations, none of them actually get killed. It gets mentioned once that only about four CHERUB agents have ever actually died on a mission over the course of CHERUB's entire history.
- It has to be mentioned that this only seems to apply to the major characters- The Sleepwalker opens with a chapter describing a plane crash which kills everyone on board from the perspective of a young boy, and it's mentioned in Divine Madness that dozens of children were killed by explosives during the Australian army's final assault on the Ark.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique - McEwan seems to like them.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold – James
- Just a Kid - The entire point of CHERUB is that no one will suspect them because they are Just a Kid.
A terrorist doesn't let strangers into her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place. The terrorist doesn't know that one of these kids has bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The kid works for CHERUB.
- Just Plane Wrong - An F-16 is depicted taking off from an aircraft carrier, even though F-16's are not naval aircraft.
- Kids Are Cruel - No shortage of bullies
- Kid Hero - James and most of the other CHERUB agents.
- Kung Fu Kid - All CHERUB agents train in advanced martial arts and many would qualify, though Bruce Norris is the one most noted for his martial arts talent.
- Little Miss Badass - Lauren, Kerry and many of the other female CHERUB agents.
- Little Miss Con Artist - Again, CHERUB agents are trained to be this.
- London Gangster - Several of the bad guys, including the Keith Moore Gang in Class A and the titular gang of Mad Dogs fit this trope, though some of them are not actually from London proper.
- Lower Class Lout: Quite a few of the teens display chavlike characteristics.
- Meaningful Name and Meaningful Rename- Justified because CHERUB agents get to pick their own new name when they become agents and again when they leave CHERUB. For example, Mr. Large is very tall and muscular, and the CHERUB agent most obsessed with martial arts in the series is named Bruce Norris.
- Lampshaded in Shadow Wave by journalist Hugh Verhoeven who, after seeing Bruce's combat capabilities, remarks "Bruce Norris, eh? I take it that name's no coincidence?"
- Mission Briefing - Almost every mission includes a lengthy written mission briefing. While the mission briefings will not self destruct, agents are not allowed to remove them from Mission Control, a rule that James does not always follow.
- Mugged for Disguise - This technique is used in Class A' against prison guards during a jail break.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya - conversed, as Bruce asks for some little cards he can leave with people informing them who just beat them up.
- Neat Freak - Kyle Blueman, who is also homosexual.
- Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters - Keith More's Gang in Class A is associate with a boxing club. The "notorious underworld figure" Sasha Thompson is allowed to run a neighborhood football club, complete with teams for children. Also, the titular motorcycle gang in Brigands M.C. has redeveloped their clubhouse a popular strip of restaurant, shops and apartments. However, this is not to say that any of the gangs featured in the book are above racketeering, selling drugs and murder. It is just that some keep that part of their business quiet while also investing in a legitimate activities that builds good community relations and may also be profitable.
- Ordinary High School Student - CHERUB agents pretend to be these while on missions, and in most ways are much like any other teenagers.
- Parental Abandonment - This trope is a job requirement for CHERUB agents. They must all be either orphans with no known living family members that can assume guardianship, abandoned children, or they must have some other situation that prevents their parents from being involved in their lives.
- Perky Goth - Lauren Adams sometimes (but not always) shows characteristics of this.
- Remember the New Guy? - Dante is introduced in the penultimate book of the first series, but he hasn't even been mentioned up until that point because he's been on a mission that's lasted over three years. He also gets retconned into Lauren's basic training, which doesn't help.
- Resignations Not Accepted - Not quite. CHERUB agents must retire when they become adults, but if retired agents becomes a security risk by leaking secrets about CHERUB, CHERUB security will take care of the problem.
- R-Rated Opening - Brigands M.C. so very much. The prologue has Dante witness his entire family being brutally murdered in front of him, barely managing to escape with his baby sister, who hits her head and almost dies herself. There's so much Gorn, it's a wonder Muchamore got away with it.
- Sarcastic Confession - In The Killing, James tells a woman in at a laundromat about Cherub:
"You know, I can't really talk to you," James grinned. "You see, I'm a secret agent. I work for an undercover organisation called CHERUB and if I told you any more, I'd have to kill you." "You don't have to be so bloody sarcastic," the woman said sourly, crossing her arms as she stormed off in a huff.
- School Is for Losers - James and any number of other teenage characters have this attitude, though in James's case it is somewhat modified in that he actually enjoys and does well at math, physics and Russian. He is just bad and lazy when it comes to anything involving lots of reading and writing. In spite of his attitude, he ends the series with an improbable number of really high A-levels.
- School Uniforms Are the New Black - Because this is the British Education System, all the English schools depicted require uniforms. CHERUB Campus even has uniforms, though they consist of military style trousers and boots worn with t-shirts that are colored according to the rank of the agent.
- Shoe Phone - For the most part, the focus on exotic spy gadgets disguised as ordinary object is averted. CHERUB agents do have enhanced capabilities on some of the technology, such as their mobile phones, but rarely something really strange. One favorite gadget of many of the fans is the "lock gun," but this is actually a real life technology that is not disguised as anything else.
- Sleazy Politician - Tam Abdullah in Shadow Wave.
- Spy School - CHERUB Campus is a spy school, but for the most part it works like any other British school in terms of classes, teachers, subject, assignments, exams, etc. The biggest difference is that some additional subjects such as martial arts and infiltration skills are also taught, and at the age of 10 students go through basic training before they can become fully qualified agents.
- Sting - Being a book series, CHERUB does not have a soundtrack, however in Shadow Wave Dante lampshades this trope by saying "Dun, dun dunnnn!" after an announcement that a tsunami wave will arrive in a few minutes.
- Simulated Urban Combat Area - CHERUB has access to SAS urban training sites and uses them for their own training in The Killing.
- Spy Fiction - This series is about the use of children as spies
- Take a Third Option - Described early on as Lauren's favourite way of doing things.
- Take That:
John Jones: "What did you get [from the mall?]"
Rat: "Books mostly. I got a new copy of Oliver Twist and four other Charles Dickens novels. Plus that Lord of the Rings book that Dana raved about at the hospital."
John Jones: "Pretty brave attempting Lord of the Rings. Never managed to plough through it all myself."
- The Cartel - Appears in Class A.
- Team Mom - Because of the young age of the agents, most of the female staff has to play this role at one point or another, particularly Zara Asker, who starts out the series as a CHERUB mission controller and is latter promoted to CHERUB Chairwoman.
- Teens Are Monsters - There is no shortage of chavs and yobs among the Council Estate wastelands depicted, not to mention teenage drug dealers, drug users, gangsters etc. Even many of the "good guy" CHERUB agents show a bad streak sometimes.
- Teen Superspy - The entire point of CHERUB
- Terms of Endangerment - Mr Large calls trainee Cherubs 'cupcakes' or 'muffins' a lot.
- The Handler - This role is filled on missions by CHERUB mission controllers. CHERUB handlers are not responsible for running operations, but instead act as Parental Substitutes.
- The Infiltration - Another favorite tactic of CHERUB, and the central plot device of many of the CHERUB books
- There Are No Therapists - Averted. James sees therapists on a regular basis (though usually off screen) to deal with some of traumatic experiences and some of his anger management issues. Other characters are sometime sent to counseling.
- The Mafiya - The Fall features organized Russian crime in both of its major plots. James targets a high level Russian oligarch believed to be selling weapons and military technology to rouge states. Lauren targets Russian human trafficking
- The New Russia - Featured in the The Fall, complete with crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, epic-sized corruption, etc. The Mafiya and Former Regime Personnel play an important role.
- The Spymaster - The CHERUB Chairman
- The Yardies - A Jamaican gang in featured in Mad Dogs, though the term "Yardies" is never used.
- Totally Radical - Robert Muchamore tries hard to get the slang right, but sometimes messes up, particularly in his earlier books. For example, his fans at CherubForums.com complained about him having teen characters use the word "dude."
- Tracking Device - Another common CHERUB tool
- Training From Hell – Basic training and other aspects of CHERUB training, even to the point that Drill Sergeant Nasty does things to 10 year olds that would get a Real Life military drill sergeant fired for hazing.
- Took a Level In Badass – All the cherubs do this after the aforementioned Training From Hell.
- Trojan Prisoner - In Maximum Security James Adams becomes a prisoner in order to break someone out of prison.
- Twin Switch - One of the bonus stories, aptly named The Switch, has nearly identical twins Connor and Callum switch places as part of a mission. The fact that Real Life twins are rarely perfectly identical is acknowledged, and a makeup artist is used to make the two boys look even more alike.
- Tsundere - Kerry.
- TV Teen - Averted in a big way.
- Useful Book - Averted in The Recruit, when James and Kerry lighten their packs during the final basic training exercise and decide to leave behind a hefty tome that they later realise was meant to be used as toilet paper during their jungle trek.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World - Pretty much the entire point of the series. Teenagers deal with the normal pressures of teen school and social life on top of their challenging missions.
- Western Terrorists - All the actual terrorists depicted in the series are Western terrorists, including the eco-terrorist group Help Earth! (Fictional Counterpart to Earth First!) and the Animal Freedom Militia (Fictional Counterpart to the Animal Liberation Front). In The Sleepwalker it appears that a plane might have been destroyed by Muslim terrorists, however it turns out that the real villain is really just a Corrupt Corporate Executive that was selling shoddy parts to the airliners.
- What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids? - The latter books have "Not Suitable for Younger Readers" on the back of the cover, presumably because of the gritty portray of sex and sexuality, obscene language, violence, drug and alcohol use, adolecent bad attitudes, etc. Unfortunately it never specifies how young is "younger," and is marketed as a juvenile book.
- White Gang-Bangers - The Brigands,the Mad Dogs, and Keith More's Gang.
- Wild Teen Party - Multiple examples.
- Witness Protection - Dante joins CHERUB in part as a means of witness protection, though instead of just living his life in fear and hiding CHERUB turns him into a Teen Superspy
- Young Entrepreneur - Kyle, who always has an ethically challenged scheme to make money, usually be selling counterfeit merchandise and illegal copies of DVD's, games and other media.
- Your Cheating Heart - James and a number of other character do this, sometimes more than once. In fact, James is almost (but not quite) qualifies as a Kidanova, in that he hooks up with a different girl almost every mission, in spite of having a girlfriend back on Campus.