When their grandmother Grace dies, orphans Amy and Dan accept a challenge to search for 39 clues that could make them the most powerful people in the world. But they aren’t the only ones looking. Other Cahills, more ruthless, wealthy, and powerful than them, have taken the challenge too and they are not willing to let a pair of poor kids beat them. In The Viper’s Nest, Amy and Dan follow a clue from Irina Spasky that leads them to Pretoria as they try to come to terms with the events in Australia.
Unlike the earlier books, this book felt informative but not particularly engaging. Not that it was a bad book, it just didn’t feel like we had as much character growth from the characters as we have in previous books. This is more about having Amy and Dan reacting to the events of the last book [if you haven't already read book six then this is a SPOILER: Irina Spasky died saving them in a fire--I don't know if I really believe she was gone, but it does seem likely] than about really delving into who they are. They come off as a little flatter and even perhaps slightly regressed, from the Dan and Amy we have come to know.
We do get a new surprise as Dan and Amy learn more about their ancestry and Amy remembers more about the night their parents died, but this is not really much in the way of character growth.
Ultimately, this book feels more like it bridges books six and eight than it does feel like a solid book on its own (sort of like the filler episodes on shows between episodes that are about the bigger mythology). It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great beyond the surprise at the end.
When their grandmother Grace dies, orphans Amy and Dan accept a challenge to search for 39 clues that could make them the most powerful people in the world. But they aren’t the only ones looking. Other Cahills, more ruthless, wealthy, and powerful than them, have taken the challenge too and they are not willing to let a pair of poor kids beat them. In this book, Amy and Dan have followed a lead to Australia (specifically, with no idea where to go, they get a hint that their parents may have gone to Australia at some point). Isabel Kabra, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly frustrated by her children and Irina Spasky’s inability to stop or surpass the Cahill siblings and is ready to take drastic action (sharks, poisonous snakes, and spiders anyone?). Amy gets some unexpected–and slightly unwanted–that forces her to confront memories of the day her parents died.
The strongest element to this book was the full-circle growth of Irina, a character who started as a definite enemy of Dan and Amy but slowly becomes…something of an ally. Finally we got the back story we needed to understand why her character behaves the way she does and what it is that makes her start second-guessing her life.
Amy and Dan have also begun to suspect Nellie, their au pair, who has turned out to be surprisingly more capable than expected. She can speak foreign languages, fly planes, and displays some other unusual skills. But with so few people that they can trust, do they really have to worry about the one person who has made their journey for the clues possible?
We get more history, this time with Amelia Earhart and Mark Twain, but where the historical figures in earlier books took center stage, in this book they were sort of background. They helped push things along and hint to the Cahills where they should look, but they weren’t as big a deal as before.
This wasn’t my favorite book of the season but it definitely helped move the mystery along further.
One of the interesting things about this series is the fact that each book is written by a different author, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Style though without the pseudonyms. I haven’t read more than the first book yet so I can’t comment on whether I like this or not but it’s strange because where Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys don’t have a story arch, the 39 Clues does so I wonder how well it will hold up as far as consistency goes.
The 39 Clues is about Amy and Dan Cahills, two siblings whose parents died when they were young. They are wards of their Aunt Beatrice who finds every way possible to stay away from them and have weekend visits with their grandmother, Grace. When Grace dies she sets in motion a great hunt for the Cahill family. See, the Cahill family is secretly the most powerful in history and whoever wins the hunt (which requires finding and following 39 clues) will gain a secret that will make them extremely powerful. Should they decide not to take the challenge, they get a million dollars. Amy and Dan (along with a few other cousins) accept the challenge though they believe they have little hope of succeeding. They have no money and are just kids. And the others want to keep them from winning at all costs.
I love Rick Riordan, so I didn’t doubt that I would enjoy this book. It may not be much like Percy Jackson regarding mythology, but it certainly pulls history into the present. I don’t know how I will feel about the other books, written by other authors, but I’m excited to see how author number two keeps up.
Final component to the book: clues that you can try to follow yourself online. I haven’t check it out yet but I’m curious.