Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
"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, only known as CHERUB, which takes young orphans (usually not older than about twelve, depending on how young they look) and trains them to become spies. The organisation has been in existence since shortly after WW2, and at the time of the books, it 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.It is also notable for its use of fairly realistic criminals, having drug-dealers, arms-smugglers and animal-rights terrorists instead of the Super Villain opponents of Alex Rider and Young Bond.First series:
There is also a spin-off series, Henderson's Boys, that is set during World War II, and follows the adventures of the organanization that would become the predecessor to CHERUB.A second series has begun, set several years after the end of the first series, featuring mostly all-new characters, though a few from the first series show up every so often.Casting for a movie version is under way. It is not known which book, or how many, will be adapted.
Action Girl: Most of the female leads. All cherubs are trained to be superb martial artists and have gun training.
A.K.A.-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.
Jane Oxford is very cordial to James when they talk.
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.
Alternate Timeline: Robert Muchamore wrote three possible futures for James (available on the website). They consist of James becoming either The Casanova, a family man, or the Chairman of CHERUB. Given the fact that James returns to CHERUB as a mission controller in Black Friday, the third option is the most likely.
Animal Wrongs Group: Help Earth (in The Recruit and Divine Madness) and the AFM (in Man vs Beast).
Arms Dealer: A favorite villain of the CHERUB series, which is not surprising considering Britain's opinion regarding guns:
Jane Oxford in Maximum Security is an International Arms Merchant.
Dennis Obidin from The Fall is a Former Red With Rockets for Sale.
The Führer and many of his associates in Brigands M.C. and Shadow Wave are Gangland Gun Runners.
In Shadow Wave Tan Abdullah is a Minister of Defense looking to import weapons from Britain.
Bait-and-Switch Boss: Irena Aramov is the leader of the Aramov clan, the bad guys of the second series. She is actually a nice old lady, who is all too willing to help Ethan and his mother. The real antagonist is Irena's son, Leonid.
Becoming the Mask: Defied in Divine Madness - James, Lauren and Dana start to infiltrate a cult and, once they've left, immediately realize that they were enjoying themselves way too much. The expert they talk to reassures them that now they've seen how it works and can recognize the techniques, it'll be much easier to not succumb in the future.
Bittersweet Ending: The Sleepwalker. The bad guy is sent to prison, but his son lost his mother, and it turns out that he can't join CHERUB because he sleepwalks and sleeptalks, so he ends up living with Mac, who lost his wife, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the plane crash.
Brilliant but Lazy: Ning starts off as this- unlike her friends, who are all obsessed with doing as well as they can in school, Ning wants to sleep in and be a rock star.
British Education System: The major characters are for the most part all British school kids, so features of the 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.
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.
Book Dumb: James is good with numbers, but he's not so good at essays.
Cardboard Prison: The juvenile maximum-security facility in Maximum Security. James escapes with a literal piece of cardboard, exploiting a real security flaw. The scary thing is, two guards who were in on it weren't actually needed, they were just there to guarantee success.
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.
Cute Bruiser: Cherubs train in advance martial arts from a very young age.
Child Soldiers: Cherubs 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 are not only allowed on more dangerous missions but also have to deal with the typical social problems (e.g. sex) as they arise.
Death by Origin Story: The cherubs are all required to be orphaned or abandoned with no family members likely to turn up and claim them. This trope strikes main characters James and Lauren, as their mother dies just chapters into the first book and Lauren's father is sent to jail for smuggling cigarettes after hitting Lauren.
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.
Disproportionate Retribution: In The Killing, Kerry dumps James, who subsequently takes out his anger on a kid nearby who laughs at him. Horrible? Certainly yes, but James nearly gets killed for it and all of his friends turn against him, because the kid he thumped had a particularly tragic and horrible backstory. But keep in mind, James didn't have a clue who the kid was and had no idea about his past. And all his friends act like he went looking for that kid in particular to thump, when it was just random bad luck.
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.
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. Seemingly enforced, too. They break up about four times in the first few books, and The General begins with James and Dana as a couple and Kerry is together with Bruce. Of course, Dana actually cheated on James, leaving him single. And Bruce and Kerry's break-up is shown in only a single throwaway line at the end. Geez, Muchamore, way to show subtlety.
Food Fight: A major food fight in one of the books gets several characters in trouble.
Foil: Keith "Junior" Moore Jr (from Class A and Mad Dogs) is this for James Adams. Like James, he is the son of a successful criminal (Keith Moore Sr is a cocaine dealer, while Gwen Choke ran a shoplifting ring). In Mad Dogs, Junior is trying to cling on to the title gang, like James did before joining CHERUB. Like James, this gets him arrested, though Junior gets arrested because after being rejected by said gang, he tries to strike off on his own in the most stupid way possible, unlike James who was betrayed by his fellow gang members. Bruce outright says that Junior is what James would be if he hadn't joined CHERUB.
Free-Range Children: CHERUB agents have adult supervision, but are often given a long leash and are allowed to get away with a lot, both during missions and on Campus.
Fur and Loathing: The most notable example is in Shadow Wave where one of the characters is a fur wearing Rich Bitch fashion model and wife of a corrupt politician. Of course, Lauren, being a vegan, has this attitude toward leather as well.
Gay Aesop: James gradually learns to become more tolerant of Kyle's homosexuality.
Generation Xerox: The second series has only one character who is original (Ryan), with Alfie as the Arsenal-loving Kid-anova with an impulsive streak (like James) and Ning as the girl from Asia strong enough to fight any of the boys (like Kerry).
Get Into Jail Free: In one of the books, James' assignment is to go undercover in a 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.
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.
The closest we get is Gabrielle, who is stabbed in Mad Dogs and nearly dies.
The Infiltration: Another favorite tactic of CHERUB, and the central plot device of many of the CHERUB books.
Insistent Terminology: There is a Ukrainian character named Yosyp Kazakov. Call him Russian, and you'll get an earful and a half (if you're lucky).
In the Blood: Irena Aramov wants this. Unfortunately, Leonid is a psychopath with no cunning, Josef is an idiot, and Galenka wants nothing to do with the family business.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: James. As prickish as he is, he accepts and acknowledges his mistakes and faults and does try to be a good person.
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.
Michael Patel from book 4, The Killing. He is the first antagonist not to be portrayed in a sympathetic or likeable light, and is therefore lacking in any redeeming qualities. He is also a corrupt police officer who can and will murder anyone who is on to him.
Hassam Bin Hassam from The Sleepwalker is abusive towards his wife and son murdering the former and makes a fortune from reselling shoddy plane parts, which can cause plane crashes. He is also a hypocrite who preaches that his son must respect his heritage, but is happy to ignore it himself. Hassam is one of the few villains to be killed off instead of arrested, pulling a Suicide by Cop after taking his son hostage and having him subsequently freed by a CHERUB agent.
Leonid Aramov, a psychopathic brute who shows no remorse about killing children.
Kung-Fu Kid: All CHERUB agents train in advanced martial arts and many would qualify, though BruceNorris is the one most noted for his martial arts talent.
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 BruceNorris. 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.
Mistaken for Cheating: In Brigands MC, Dante Scott is introduced as an old friend of Lauren's from training, who was on a mission for three years. Lauren is naturally overjoyed to see him, but her boyfriend, Rat, gets very jealous and accuses her of cheating on him (she wasn't).
The end notes of Shadow Wave say that James did not cheat on Kerry in his first year at university (she hadn't yet retired from CHERUB yet), though she suspected otherwise.
Mugged for Disguise: This technique is used in Maximum Security against prison guards during a jail break.
Murder.com: In Man vs Beast, an extremist animal rights group attempts to kill a TV chef by making him drink a very dangerous cleaning liquid and then broadcasting that over the Internet for everyone to watch. The chef lives, but it's a very close thing and he's got lasting damage from the effects.
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.
Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: Subverted by many of the enemy gangs. Keith Moore's Gang in Class A is associated with a boxing club. The "notorious underworld figure" Sasha Thompson is allowed to run a neighbourhood football club, complete with teams for children. Also, the titular motorcycle gang in Brigands M.C. has redeveloped their clubhouse into a popular strip of restaurant, shops and apartments. However, the subversion comes in that none of these groups are above genuine criminal activity like racketeering, selling drugs and murder, and they're the bad guys.
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.
Questionable Consent: James ends up sleeping with the daughter of one of the villains in Mad Dogs. While he normally wouldn't turn down an attractive, willing girl, he wasn't particularly keen on sleeping with this one in particular, and the circumstances make it worse- he's having a bath, and she walks in, starts taking her clothes off and makes it clear that no is not one of his options.
Reconstruction: Of the child spy genre after Alex Riderdeconstructed it. Every mission is approved by an ethics board, and most of them are monitored by an adult mission controller who comes with the spies as supervision.
Red Pill, Blue Pill: Discussed- James says to Dante that as much as cherubs love going on missions, he thinks that if they were given the choice to return to their normal lives, most of them would go for it. (Depressingly, one has to remember that their normal lives would probably involve having living parents/families again.)
Refuge in Audacity: Michael Patel tends to go overboard when arresting perps. In one instance, he deliberately slams James' head into the top of his police car's door. Patel is smart enough to know that he can get away with any accusations of police brutality by dismissing the claims as racism against an ethnic cop, causing the case to boil down to a policeman's word against a criminal's. This gives him the perfect cover to keep doing it.
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.
Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: In Mad Dogs, Sash Thompson is dismissive of our hero, James Adams, until he finds out that he was the one who burned Crazy Joe's car back in Class A.
Romantic False Lead: Bruce to Kerry. They get together, only to enforce First Girl Wins with James, they break up off-screen and James is only told of this in the last, throwaway line of The General.
R-Rated Opening: Brigands M.C. so very much. The prologue has a younger 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.
"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.
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.
The Spymaster: Mac, the Chairman of CHERUB. And then Zara, once Mac retires.
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, but in Shadow Wave Dante spoofs this trope by saying "Dun, dun dunnnn!" after an announcement that a tsunami will arrive in a few minutes.
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 Genius: James is a mathematical genius- ask him a maths question and he can do it in his head in about five seconds.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Useful Book: Subverted 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 realize 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.
James and a number of other character do this, sometimes more than once. In fact, James is almost (but not quite) qualifies as a Kid-anova, in that he hooks up with a different girl almost every mission, in spite of having a girlfriend back on Campus.
Michael and Dana cheat on Gabrielle and James respectively in The General. James is particularly pissed off because he did his best to be a good boyfriend, and Gabrielle's heart is basically broken into a billion pieces. Dana points out later that James hardly has room to talk, but even so, one has to feel sorry for Gabrielle, especially given how close she and Michael were.