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Lots of ecitement, nonstop action and around-the-world quests
on August 31, 2011
Two years have passed since Amy and Dan survived the hunt for the 39 clues. The now 16- and 13-year-olds have settled into the rebuilt mansion of their dear grandmother, with Uncle Fiske and Nellie as legal guardians. Both have grown and matured some; Amy even has a steady boyfriend named Evan. She still stutters sometimes, but has more confidence in herself. She knows that she will never escape being a Cahill, so she has been preparing herself for anything with constant workouts, self-defense lessons, and a fancy command center with lots of high-tech stuff. Dan, on the other hand, is bored. After racing around the world on an important quest, eighth grade seems rather trivial. He even drops into periods of depression. But before long, things get interesting --- and life-threatening --- again.
The Cahills are finally attempting a peaceful reunion, having called a cease fire. The older generation hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet, but the younger cousins have actually become friends. Sort of. This is good as there's another enemy lurking about, and the Cahills will have to band together in order to survive. The evil Vespers kidnap seven of the Cahills to use as ransom: Nellie, Reagan, Uncle Fiske, Natalie, Alistair Oh, Ted, and 12-year-old Phoenix Wizard. The Vespers are using the hostages to force Dan, Amy and their cousins scrambling to steal a priceless painting of a severed Medusa head.
But nothing is as it seems, and trust is treacherous. Dan and Amy have serious doubts that they will be able to rescue Nellie and the other hostages in time. While Amy hits the library for research and reaches out to other Cahill resources, Dan starts on a backup plan. At the end of the clue hunt, they had destroyed the very dangerous 39-ingredient formula invented by Gideon Cahill that would have given a person absolute power. No human should have that kind of power. But one copy of the formula still exists --- in Dan's photographic memory. Dan starts collecting the rare ingredients to recreate the formula that he will use on himself to save Nellie.
This new spinoff series from the original 39 Clues books starts off with an adventurous bang. Gordon Korman takes the lead novel and does an outstanding job with lots of excitement, nonstop action and more around-the-world quests. In the first book, he shoots Dan and Amy off to Florence, Italy, to hunt down the famous and grotesque painting of the severed Medusa head. He uses lots of vivid imagery to set the scenes, giving readers a unique look at the story. Dan and Amy are a bit older, with different hurdles to overcome and mountains to traverse; Amy is in a serious relationship, and Dan is struggling with some depression. This may explain why the humor is a bit keyed down here as compared to previous installments, though the story does have some funny parts.
Keep your eyes roving for those clues stashed in the pages! Book Two is due out in December 2011 courtesy of Jude Watson.
--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman