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Synopsis of Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is Alex Rider’s third adventure as a spy. After being shot at by international terrorists and staring pure evil in the face he is back to do it again. Twice he saved the world and twice he was almost killed doing it. This time the enemy is more dangerous because he has lost everything he cared about and is desperate. Plus he just happens to have a nuclear weapon to destroy the free world. He will stop at nothing until his beloved Russia is back in power. Until Alex shows up. Alex unites with America’s CIA for this adventure. Saving the world takes him from the sandy beaches in Miami to the frozen shores of Northern Russia in Skeleton Key.

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First Impressions

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This is book three in the Alex Rider series I grew up reading and loving. Just the fact that Skeleton is in the names gives off ominous vibes and makes me want to find out who dies. (Tiny spoiler: people do die. It is an action book with spies and guns involved.) I love that each book has taken us to a different location and this time we are somewhere tropical. Honestly, I can’t help but feel sorry for Alex in the majority of this book as he tries to get out of the sticky situation he finds himself in. Also, he just can’t help himself sometimes and lands himself in some pretty hot water.

Skeleton Key Parent Guide

Overall: PG-13 for violence
Violence: PG-13 intense moment with a shark, almost killed during interrogation, hand-to-hand combat, suicide (story cuts off with the gun going off and picks up later; zero gore)
Language: PG a couple of mild swear words
Adult Content: G mild kiss
Reading Level: Grade 4-12 (I would wait until 6th grade because of content)

Themes in Skeleton Key

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  • Prove Yourself: Alex is constantly doing dangerous things partly to prove that he can and to live up the legacy of his uncle.
  • Terrorism: There are multiple terrorist groups and plots exposed. Alex becomes a target after interfering.
  • Young Love: Alex has his first crush and has to balance real life vs spy life
  • Kids vs Adults: There are multiple adults who Alex can’t trust and even ones he is supposed to trust he doesn’t.
  • Too Young: This is a theme in many of the books. Alex is considered too young for what he is doing. As a result, individuals withhold information to “keep him safe” but not being informed gets him in deeper trouble without preparation. 
  • Orphan: This idea of being parent-less and lacking specifically a father figure is brought up in the book.
  • Living in the Past: The Antagonist is stuck living and memorializing the past. He views the past as far more superior to now and attempts to make the present like the past. 


“He looked from the phone to the unconscious figure of the Salesman. “What did you do to him?” he asked.
“He got the wrong number,” Alex said.”

― Anthony Horowitz, Skeleton Key

“What happened?” he demanded. “I heard an explosion!”
[Alex] “Yeah. That was me. I set the boat alight.”
“I set fire to the boat.”
“But we’re on the boat!”
“I know.”

― Anthony Horowitz, Skeleton Key

 “Strange though it is, Sarov still cares about you. He told me to leave you alone. But I think, this time, I must disobey the general. You are mine! And I intend to make you suffer…”

“Just talking to you makes me suffer,” Alex said.”

― Anthony Horowitz, Skeleton Key

My Thoughts about Skeleton Key

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Alex’s sarcasm is amazing! He always says just the right thing to lighten the mood and make what could be a dark and heavy situation light. His sarcasm reminds me of a lot of the one-liners that Harry Potter pulls. If you need a reminder of his wit take a look at the quotes earlier in this post. 

One thing that I like is how Alex uses logic and quick thinking to beat his enemy. Sometimes he can beat someone in a quick hand-to-hand combat situation but the majority of the time the adults overpower him easily or they have weapons that he doesn’t. To beat these bad guys he has to think and use his brains to his advantage. I respect that a lot. Granted, he is using those insights to get the upper-hand in a fight so he can win. These books don’t advocate for violence. Alex just happens to find himself in a few violent situations and has to find a way out.

Skeleton Key gives us an insight into terrorist organizations and a bunch of different strategies they employ. It also shows how easy it is to manipulate the media to tell the story you want it to. I like how this book leaves you thinking about these kinds of situations. It opens up our eyes to the dark hidden world that we can easily pass by. Granted this glimpse isn’t too extreme. It just shows a few ways that terrorists operate throughout the world.

What to Read Next?

I’m hoping that you already have Eagle Strike (Alex Rider Book 4) on hold or already checked out. Other books you need to dive into include I Am Number Four, and Bobby Pendragon: The Merchant of Death. If you are still running low on books to read check out this post about more science fiction action books to read.

Happy Reading!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to buy, I make a small commission for referring you. This helps me make a few cents for doing what I love.