The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2014
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

This review first appeared on Thoughts and Pens book blog.

After reading two uninspiring MG books for the last couple of weeks, I thought that The Forbidden Stone would be no better especially that the blurb said, “Rick Riordan meets Dan Brown in this exhilarating and adventurous new tween series from beloved and bestselling author Tony Abbott.” And you know what usually happens when a book is marketed as “the next blah blah” or “this book is a cross between PJO and the DaVinci Code.” The latter made things more complicated because I happen to love Rick Riordan and Dan Brown’s works and I really hate to be disappointed. Fortunately, this book delivered. It may not be as brilliant as the Robert Langdon or the PJO series, it managed to hold on its own.

The story of The Forbidden Stone began when Wade and Darell received a strange coded message from their enigmatic uncle, Henry. After deciphering the message, weird things are suddenly happening and before they knew it, Wade, Darell, Roald (their father), Lily (their cousin) and Becca were already drag into a 500 year old guarded secret that might just be the undoing of the world. And they must hurry to ensure that the said secret–which has already claimed lives–will remain one forever.

I love that this book lived up to its blurb. Though the characters still need some polishing, I can’t deny the fact that they’re adorable. Wade and Darell are stepbrothers but they’re really close which is kind of rare in books these days because most authors would follow the other path wherein they pit step siblings against each other. Then we also have the two girls who were not the so-so heroines and actually contributed to solve and protect the mystery of The Forbidden Stone. Even the antagonists were believable and kudos to Tony Abbott for making the main villain a female.

The other thing that really made this book stood out from the rest is that both parents of the MCs are alive. And Wade and Darell’s father is even accompanying them in their adventure. Get that, pals? No missing parents and you get to see one of the parents playing a significant role in the whole story. And the relationship between the characters was really cute despite the fact that it still requires more growth and dynamicity. But I guess, the author really intended to do that so there’s plenty of space to elaborate the character relationships in the next 5 books.

The Forbidden Stone’s plot also stayed true to its premise. If you love Astronomy and unearthing its hidden secrets then this is the perfect book for you. But if you don’t, you will still love this because it has a lot of humor, fast paced with a lot of action, mind boggling puzzles and you get to travel from Texas-Germany-Paris-Rome-Guam hunting centuries old relics and understanding the movements of the stars. Plus, the author didn’t resort to info dumping when he explained the sci-fi elements of this book. Instead, he slowly walked me through this astronomy business giving me time to process all the new things that were thrown my way. Reading The Forbidden Stone was refreshing because the plot was intricately made which is phenomenal for an MG book. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of MG (except PJO and HP) and YA books are very simplistic and very predictable nowadays that it’s just so hard to be engrossed in a story anymore. But this one has managed to free itself from those books with haphazardly woven plots. It goes to show that Tony really did his assignment well.

My only issue with this book is that almost every chapter is told from a different character’s POV. I just wished that because this is the first book in a series, the author should have focused in telling the story from Wade or Darell’s POV first then gradually expand in the next sequels. That way, the readers have more time in getting to know the MCs really well and eventually rooting for them unconditionally. With the way this book is narrated, potential fans would end up confused about the the characters that they should root for.

To conclude, I’d certainly be on the lookout for the release of The Forbidden Stone’s sequel. The wait might be long but I know that it would be worth it. So if you’re looking for another series to follow, then don’t hesitate to pick up this one. The sci-fi elements, the travel around the world, the mystery of The Forbidden Stone and the characters will have you reeling with awesome.

***An ARC of this book was freely provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Katherine Tegen Books & Harper Collins!***
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2014
I had high hopes for this book. I was looking for something for my kids that would have suspense, and would showcase European locations and historical information, and present it in an interesting way. The code solving aspect sounded promising. Well, this book did not really deliver for us. Got the book, but the kids found it boring. Since we listen to books a lot in the car, I tried it as an audiobook. We got through it, but found sections of it pretty tedious and the code "solving" was more like leaps of imagination than anything to do with logic.
It feels like the author decided to do the Da Vinci Code for kids (substitute Copernicus for Da Vinci, evil organization with mysterious intentions, clues to be solved, etc.) The negatives for me were that the main characters didn't feel fully fleshed out, or at least not so much that you cared about them a great deal, and too much in the plot was unbelievable. Even though this is often the case with this sort of adventure, it never made me want to suspend my disbelief.
The worst part of it for me though were the villains - it takes too long to have any idea why they do what they're doing (I'm still not sure), and there's way too much explaining of how amazingly evil yet "mesmerizing" their leader (a 19-year-old girl) is. There's a part about her underground lair filled with centuries old artworks by masters that no one knows exists that just goes on too long. It feels like the author is trying too hard to build her into an amazing character, but it doesn't work. And, (spoiler alert) the way the children are cornered in a small underground cave with assassins' weapons pointed at them, yet still escape - it's just too much.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed the story and the characters, especially the kids, but I appreciated the fact that the father was an important character too. The interaction between the two boys, Wade and Darrell (step brothers) is fun--and believable. The two girls are also well-characterized and contribute to the adventure. They all work together to solve each puzzle as it pops up, with help from various characters along the way. (I especially liked Carlo, and I'd like to visit the school again.) There is a lot of adventure, mystery, and suspense--and mayhem. The villains are dangerous, strange, and lethal so the story is full of violence and brutal murders...

I'm not sure if the stories--all twelve of them--will keep the readers hanging on. There will be six full-length novels and six interstitial novellas, and I'm not sure how that will be handled or how long the intervals between stories will be. I confess that I'm not fond of stories that go on and on, and I did not like the cliff-hanger ending on this one!

Finding a relic should be fun; it's certainly a good marketing gimmick...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2014
May be fine for younger readers, but most YA fans might be a bit too old for this one. The educational material feels shoe-horned in and a couple of the characters have annoying one-note personalities. Also, this book does not stand on its own: It stops abruptly and is only the first part of a story that is (no doubt) only completed by the rest of the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I love this book! My only real issue was that some of the mystery was a little hard to understand. But I'll live. The characters, plot, and the legacy info were blended so well that it will make younger teens both girls and boys jump at the chance to follow along. So can't wait to start book two.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2014
I have more reviews like this in my blog http://ccarpelibrum.blogspot.com/ check it out.
Thoughts prior to reading it:
I haven't read many middle grade books so I was excited. Although they say to never judge a book by its cover I did when I saw the cover. It looked very promising. I didn't want to read too much of the plot because I wanted to go into the book unprepared and discovered everything along with the characters. Sometimes this is the best way to read a book because by reading the synopsis it looks so promising you begin to build up your expectations only to go into the book and realize it was nothing like you expected it and become highly disappointed.

Thoughts after reading it:
I did thoroughly enjoy this book. The characters were unique and the story was told in a delightful manner. The book sneaks in history with fiction. It talks a lot about constellation and Copernicus enough to pique a child's interest. I was intrigues by this as well, me at 23 years! It left me wanting to discover more of Copernicus and to see how much of what Tony Abbot wrote in his book is real and how much is fiction. It made me want to become more familiar with Copernicus, stars and constellations. If I had kids I would definitely want them to read this.
The story is told from multiple points of view so the book never becomes mundane from having only one perspective. The villains are truly wicked and the one that seems to be closest to the top of the villains is a mesmerizing woman with cold deadly eyes. I think this book should be on your to read list. Also the book two is coming out in October so keep an eye out for that!

Plot:
Summer vacation has begun Darrel and wade find out that a dear friend of their father, Dr. Kaplan has recently passed. The more they look into the cause of his death the more they realize it was not an accident but a murdered. Dr. Kaplan arrives home to find his home invaded with Lily and Becca who are bummed that their trip to Paris got cancelled and are now both stuck at Dr. Kaplan's home for the remainder of the summer. Except Dr. Kaplan feels like it is an obligation to attend the funeral of his dear friend but is torn between attending the funeral or staying home and caring for the kids. Of course as manipulative as kids can be Lily convinces him to use her families flight credits to go to the funeral, all of them, one adult with four kids what could possibly go wrong?
They decide to go and attend the funeral and once they arrive that is when the story truly begins. It unravels rather quickly and the things they discover are not all rather pleasant. They face many dangers, solve many mysteries and attain important clues and artifacts. Not realizing that they are being lead to something far greater than they would have ever imagined.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2014
Imagine discovering that the ancient celestial map you’ve always prized was the first piece of a worldwide treasure hunt and an adventure of a lifetime. Sounds like some kind of dream, right? For Wade, it’s real. He goes from watching meteors to jumping on planes and trains, traversing tunnels, searching tombs, and more — all while trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys!

Stars are like, messages from way out there to us down here. If only we could read the code….

Readers of Rick Riordan, The 39 Clues, and Pendragon will love this series. Similar to Peter Lerangis’ Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy feels less fantasy-oriented, though the groundwork is laid for some sci-fi elements. The characters are just regular kids (even if two of them are super smart). In addition to the clues and codes, the story incorporates science, math, and history in a way that doesn’t distract from the immediacy of the action or feel like info-dumping. Though the narrative is driven more by plot than character, the cast is well-drawn. Unlike Seven Wonders where I struggled to remember and distinguish the motley crew, I had no problems with Wade, his step-brother Darrell, cousin Lily, and her smart sidekick Becca.

One aspect of the novel that I particularly enjoyed is the fact that the family relationships are healthy. The step-brothers get along and care about one another, and the kids love their parents. In fact, the importance of family is a thematic focus.

In addition to a solid hero, any good adventure tale is in need of a menacing bad guy. In this case, the bad guy is a worthy and fascinating villainess! As far as heroes go, Abbott manages to quickly connect his reader to the Kaplan family. The kids, a mixture of smart, tech-savvy, bookish, and athletic, should, as a whole, function like a sort of everyman to the reader. I expect different kids will identify with different characters. This should translate into good sales for the series, which is projected to be twelve volumes: six books and six novellas (one for each relic). The novellas will function as diary entries from varying perspectives giving the author a chance to further develop his characters. The first novella, Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, comes out in September, and the second hardback installment, The Serpent’s Curse, follows in October.

I thoroughly enjoyed tagging along with Wade and the rest of the gang on this globe-trotting adventure!

Verdict:

4 of 5 hearts. A Smart, Rip-Roaring Adventure. The Forbidden Stone is well-paced and engaging. You are immediately embroiled in mystery and intrigue, and before you know it, will be whisked away on an epic journey!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 15, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those books that lies in the sweet spot right on the edge of Middle Grade and Young Adult--a spot I happen to really like.

Wade and his stepbrother Darrell find a coded message in their dad/stepdad's email while hanging out in his astronomy lab. Their dad says the message must be a game at first, but they discover the sender, a family friend they call Uncle Henry, has been killed. What ensues is a tromp across the globe, narrow escapes from baddies, and much clue-finding.

The characters are all very distinctive and likable. Wade is smart and shy, Darrell rambunctious and loyal, Becca (Wade's cousin) the brain who learns to love adventure, and Lily is laid back and a bit snarky. (At first I thought Lily was going to be shallow and annoying, but her phone/tablet obsession gives her ninja level Google Fu and I thought the author did a great job of making her relevant.)

This is one of the few MG/YA novels where there is a parent playing a true role and actually adventuring with the kids, and it was a great balance.

The bad guys are really bad, and the mastermind of the group made me think of Lara Croft - albeit her evil twin sister.

The writing is very good, easy to read but not dumbed-down. The pacing is great. For once, I didn't find myself completely annoyed that this was *obviously* a first book in a series. Enough was actually accomplished to make me feel like a story was told, as opposed to many first-book-in-a-series that feel like they're just the first few very long chapters of a very long book, which seems to be a common issue with books at this level.

I could, possibly, gripe a bit about how easily things happened, though. Oh, you need to get from Texas to Germany for a funeral? There just happens to be a flight at exactly the right time! Need someone who can speak Italian--oh, Becca knows like four different languages!

The thing is, this is exactly the kind of book where stuff like that really does make the story more fun. You can suspend disbelief because the story is pure adventure. I recently read a book at this age level that was technically a post apocalyptic dystopian and the author attempted this kind of feel, and it drove me nuts. This book, however, plays that kind of thing as a strength--it's the right genre with the right cast of characters to pull it off.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this. Particularly for middle school boys.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 17, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First in a new series for middle-grade readers that promises to be packed full of history, mystery, intrigue, codes, puzzles, and a fair amount of nail-biting danger. Touted as the next big series that will satisfy fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The 39 Clues Series, and Harry Potter; this first book definitely has the plotting (fast & eventful), and intrigue (Sci-Fi wrapped in history & riddles). The four main characters are smart, likable friends with just enough quirky interest to make it work. There isn’t a lot of depth yet in their characters, but you do root for them, and there’s potential for more rounded portraits to come.

The action is nonstop going from Texas, Europe, and into the western Pacific Ocean; as the friends desperately search for meaning in Copernicus’s Diary to find the all important first relic. Logistics at times can be a bit fanciful, but you can overlook these distractions because the story sweeps you along through the use of great dialogue, and descriptive scenes of secret orders, loyal guardians, and evil doers. All this with a perfect dose of scientific & historical grounding. The story is told through both the eyes of the friends & their father, and the evil yet mysterious Galina Krause.

This is a fantastic start to a planned six full-length novels, and six novellas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon April 15, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Overall, it seems a readable story with lots of adventure, careening from one situation to the next, like a juvenile Indiana Jones. On the good side, it exposes readers to lots of different times and places around the world, and name-drops scientists and explorers from the past. I was excited to begin this book, but ended up finding the action frenzy sort of tedious.

From the description "packed with puzzles", I thought the book contained puzzles for the reader to solve. Rather, the reader observes as the protgonists figure out what various clues mean, at times based on knowing other languages. So, as far as puzzles go, it is a fairly passive experience for the reader (though there is at least one place where the reader can stop reading and pick up a penci), and less engaging than I had hoped.

However, as it turns out, it is the first of 12 books involving clues and some overall search contest, which might be a lot of fun for the readers, but makes it sound more like a marketing scheme than someone with a great story to tell. However, if you tween gets hooked they may really enjoy the series.
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