Published across 12 years, the overall CHERUB series includes 17 novels and a 4-book prequel series. How did the journey begin?
Written by Robert Muchamore, the CHERUB novels have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Book number one, The Recruit was published in 2004 and ended up being the start of a long journey.
Every story needs a writer behind it all. So, who is Robert Muchamore? We’ve read about his characters for years, but what’s his story?
Robert Muchamore was born in 1972 and grew up in North London. Tufnell Park, to be precise.
He describes himself as being a bookworm and an unathletic child. As a result, his character James Adams was designed to be a cooler version of his younger self.
Although an avid reader, Muchamore’s journey to becoming a best-selling children’s author is quite unconventional.
He originally wanted to be an architect, however, due to poor A-Level results, he decided to find a career that didn’t need formal qualifications. Bingo! He decided to become a writer.
After making this decision, Muchamore had high hopes for new path. However, he would soon find himself struggling. Why? In his own words, nothing he was writing was any good.
Muchamore was trying to emulate books he liked to read – Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, for instance.
It just wasn’t clicking.
Robert Muchamore, Courtesy of Muchamore.com
In the meantime, Muchamore needed a job, so he joined Fraser & Fraser, the probate firm later featured in BBC’s Heir Hunters.
What sparked his writing inspiration? As it turns out, a little trip to see family Down Under.
Muchamore travelled to Australia in 2002-2003 so he could visit his sister and nephews during the school holidays. In particular, the oldest nephew Jared was entering his teen years at the time. Or, as parents may know it, “the moody, angsty stage.”
After arriving in Australia, he offered to buy Jared a book to read over the school holidays. However, Jared turned the offer down as he wasn’t a big reader.
In fact, the future CHERUB author later took his nephew to a book store. They couldn’t find anything Jared liked or wanted to buy.
Jared wanted something more realistic than Harry Potter and he liked watching programmes with relatable characters, such as soap operas.
Unsuccessful and proven ‘wrong’, Muchamore bought Jared a video game rather than a book.
Even if the situation seemed aggravating at the time, here was Muchamore’s inspiration for CHERUB.
Why not he just write the book that they couldn’t find for Jared? The perfect stepping stone between wholesome kids’ books and grittier adult novels.
Unlike the already-popular Harry Potter series, Muchamore decided his books would be set in “the real world” and feature characters that the readers could identify with.
From there, a phenomenon was born.
Maybe you’ve never heard of the series? If that’s the case, I’ll lay out the premise for you.
The CHERUB novels depict the titular fictitious branch of British Intelligence. They recruit orphaned or abandoned juveniles (typically 11-17) to work as operatives and carry out often dangerous undercover missions.
The acronym stands for Charles Henderson Espionage Research Unit B – with Charles Henderson being the in-universe founder, dating back to the Second World War.
That’s technically a spoiler for the Henderson’s Boys novels, so here you go.
Despite being incredibly dangerous and even fatal in a couple of unfortunate cases, CHERUB stands by the key reason for its existence. After all, you’re much less likely to suspect a kid is spying on you.
The first 12 books follow James Adams (formerly James Choke), who joins CHERUB aged 11. The later books focused on two new lead characters: Ryan Sharma and Fu Ning.
Upon changing his name, James selected the surname Adams in honour of Tony Adams.
Yes, the legendary Arsenal defender who is currently (as of writing) taking up residence on Strictly. As an Arsenal supporter, I have to say: “Come on, Tony!”
Getting back on track…
James takes part in several missions across 12 books, earning a Black shirt (the highest CHERUB honour) by the end of his agent career, as he reaches adulthood. He later returns as a mission controller in the second series.
Other major characters in the first 12 books include Lauren Adams (nee Onions), James’ half-sister, best friend Kyle Blueman and on again-off-again love interest Kerry Chang.
Remember how I said Muchamore created James as a cooler version of his younger self? Some of James’ most defining features come from the author himself.
While there’s no physical resemblance, they do share a passion for Arsenal, enjoy the same food and both hail from Tufnell Park.
Muchamore used elements of his own life, therefore, his characters feel more real.
What’s Next For CHERUB?
The last novel, New Guard, was published in 2016.
Muchamore said on his website that he does not plan to write more CHERUB books. At least, not for now.
“These days, the question I get asked most is, “Will you write more CHERUB books?” For now, the answer is no. I often point out to younger fans that I’ve been writing CHERUB books for longer than they’ve been alive! It’s twenty years since I first had the idea for CHERUB and now I need to take a break and focus on other things.”Robert Muchamore
There has also been discussions about adapting CHERUB for the screen. Muchamore also addressed this on his website:
“But CHERUB isn’t dead! We’re hoping to make a TV series, the graphic novels are still in production. And maybe some day I’ll feel inspired to write another CHERUB story. But I don’t think that will happen for a very long time!”Robert Muchamore
Regardless of what happens in the future, CHERUB already has a vast number of books in its collection.
If and when Muchamore wants to return to those stories, the fan community will be right there waiting to experience the journey all over again.