The mystery of the 39 clues has concluded: Amy and Dan have won the Clue Hunt in all the ways that matter and they can finally go home to take a well deserved rest. Or can they?
Taking a slightly different approach to the multi-author series, this book sets up the next leg of Amy and Dan’s story by starting way back in the past and following four different generations of Cahills to show us how things became the way they did:
- First we start with Rick Riordan’s story about the original Cahill family, showing us how the Cahill formula was discovered, how the family shattered, and how the family’s biggest rival came to be. (It is appropriate for Riordan to write this first part, since the 39 clues series were his idea.)
- Next we follow Madeleine, the fifth child in the Cahill family as she attempts to reunite the siblings she never met.
- For our third segment, we skip ahead some centuries to Grace Cahill as she finds herself mixed up in the clue hunt and family rivals as a young girl.
- Finally, we come back to the present when the siblings are drawn back into the fighting before they have had time to settle back into their lives at home. Are they ready for a rival stronger and more vicious than the other branches of the Cahill family ever were?
The major downside to getting a book split into four separate stories (even if they all play a part in the bigger picture of our story) is that we don’t get much time to really get to know the different characters involved. The characters, for the most part, come off as a bit one dimensional until we come to Grace (because we have learned so much about her already) and Amy and Dan (who we’ve been following all along). In particular, most of what we learn about the original Cahill siblings is told to us rather than shown to us, simply because there isn’t time to spend on each of them. I would not have been upset if they had instead written us three prequels that went into the stories in depth. That being said, it was still an interesting and exciting book.
The best part of the story is easily once we get back to Amy and Dan. Immediately the question of how the Cahill siblings would adjust to normal life after such crazy adventures is answered. They have a hard time doing it. Everywhere they look they see danger and assassination attempts. And to be fair, it isn’t all in their heads. They are quickly drawn into another world-hopping adventure, but this time they are fleeing for their lives.
My biggest complaint in this book is that I miss the other members of the Cahill family that we have come to know over the course of the series. Now that they have friends in all of the branches, I wanted to see those friendships utilized in one way or another. (To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of time considering they had only a quarter of a book to finish their adventure.)
I like that Amy and Dan have finally decided to become a bit more proactive and can’t wait to see where things go.
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 book 8, still reeling from what they have learned, Amy begins doubting her parents. She and Dan get into a fight and, for the first time since the series began, they are separated for the vast majority of the book. can they find each other in China, the most crowded country in the world?
For the first time in a while, we see Jonah Wizard again (and meet his mother) and for the first time, we get a little depth and growth to his character. We even have a moment of sympathy for his father, who is rarely seen doing anything but typing on his blackberry and catering to his famous popstar son. Even with these new insights, this is not my favorite family of the Cahill clan. It seems like a preposterous plan to have only a popstar searching for the clues rather than another person from the branch (he comes from the Janus branch of the Cahill family) who would be less conspicuous to break into places when needed.
We learn more about everyone’s characters in this book, from Dan and Amy’s relationship, to the truth about Nellie, to Jonah and his family. This isn’t my favorite book of the series (mostly because the Mount Everest sequence seemed completely unbelievable) but it was nice to really focus on characterization and growth, which was greatly lacking in the last book.
I was surprised to find how seamlessly this book worked with book one. After all, with two different authors, you can hardly expect the writing styles to match completely. But if there were differences, I didn’t notice them. It could be that had I read them back to back I might have seen it, but as it was, having two different writers didn’t bother me as all. (I think Rick Riordan also gave the first book a simple style that isn’t very difficult to emulate.)
Amy and Dan’s clues take the first to Vienna and beyond, ultimately landing them in Venice where the only way to get around is by foot or canal. Nellie, the children’s au pair, comes more to life in this book as she takes a slightly more active role in ensuring the kids’ safety. (There’s a little bit of question as to why she really cares so much about the Cahill siblings since she didn’t really have much of a connection to them in the US. I kind of want her to secretly be scheming against them but waiting until the very end to turn–they did say trust no one right?) A part of me also hopes that Amy and Dan find some special letter from Grace to them at some point. Even though they know she’s been giving them hints and information for the contest all along, it feels like it would be nice closer for them.
The series does a great job of making you suspicious of all but still wondering if maybe a temporary alliance might be a good idea. (A very temporary, highly suspicious alliance, but still.) One of the biggest mysteries I’m looking forward to having answered is which branch of the Cahill family are Amy and Dan a part of and how did their parents really die? (And of course, what is this powerful secret, but that will have to wait a long time. 39-40 books is it?)
I’d love to learn more about the history of some of the members of the Cahill extended family. We’ve got bits of history on each but I think there is still more to delve into that could add an extra dimension. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was reason to feel for the Kabras even as they are awful and sinister?
On a side note, I am exceedingly jealous that this author published his first book when he was fourteen. And more than a little impressed.