The Maze of Bones

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones
by Rick Riordan
MG fiction. 220 pp.
Scholastic. 2008.

back copy:

What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family's power was hidden around the world, in the form of 39 Clues? What if you were give a chance—take a million dollars and walk away . . . or get the first Clue? If you're Amy and Dan Cahill, you take the Clue—and begin a very dangerous race.

This book is a little bit Westing Game meets DaVinci Code meets Baudelaire Orphans meets Harry Potter.

Westing Game. So Grace Hill, the last matriarch of the Cahill clan, in the last five minutes of her life decides to pull out The Other Will. Only a tenth of the people who attended the funeral are even invited to the reading of the will. Those who do attend are informed that they can take a million dollars or a clue that will lead to other clues that will lead someone on to become the most powerful person in the world. Oh, and did I mention that anyone in the history of the world who has even been a mover and a shaker is a Cahill? It's true. And this series will introduce readers to some of these people from the past.

DaVinci Code. So the whole point is to follow the clues and find the prize before any of the other teams. (Many of the readees took the money; those who took the clue may be working alone or in pairs or as a family totaling seven teams.) Our first Cahill that we're hunting down is Benjamin Franklin, which takes us to Philadelphia and then on to Paris. And there are riddles and puzzles and danger and all sorts of stuffs to confront.

Baudelaire Orphans. The book and the series (I presume) follow Amy and Dan Cahill. Their parents are dead (killed in a fire even). They're Grandma Grace's favorite descendants, even though she has pawned them off on their great aunt Beatrice and has never told them anything about the extent of their family or this little inheritance game. That they realize; I suspect she has been giving them information that they just don't realize they have. Because Grace is shrewd that way.

Harry Potter. The Cahill family has broken into four branches—Ekaterina, Janus, Lucian, and Tomas. The founders were siblings and apparently had a fairly nasty falling out. And their descendants do their best to maintain the rivalries.

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book. Dog Ear claims the writing in it is better than Riordan's Percy Jackson series; I completely disagree. I think this book lacks some of the substance and wit that you find in Percy Jackson. I don't like the alternating chapter viewpoints in this book. I'm really not fond of Amy; her primary weakness is aggravating and unbearable, particularly since you have to live inside her head for half the book (I think I wouldn't mind it so much if I never had to be in her head). In some regards, Amy and Dan's traits are fairly gender stereotypical—quiet v. loud, books v. math, reserved v. pluck.

On the other hand, I love all the Benjamin Franklin stuff, and I'm looking forward to the W. A. M. in the next book. I'm fascinated by the premise behind the series and can't wait to see what Gordon Korman does with book two. (That said, I do think 90 days between release dates is too long to sustain interest in and build the series in the way that Scholastic wants to.) I'm intrigued to see how the series plays out as a whole. I like the online component and may actually participate in that and get cards. (And they tell you what branch of the family you're from. I'm Ekaterina, which is essentially the Ravenclaws. You know, the smart ones.) I like the anagrams and number games you find in the book.

Other reviews:
Dog Ear | Mystery Books


Nicole Politi said...

While I really enjoyed the first Percy Jackson book: The Lightning Thief (well-written and a breath of fresh air), I thought the qaulity of writing and the tightness of the story line, diminished in the fourth book. My coworker and some of the teens I have talked with felt the same. I'm wondering what the experience will be like over the ten book, multiple-authored 39 Clues.

~Dogear (

Edgy said...

I have the same concern . . . How do you keep everything tight and consistent over ten books with different authors for (nearly) all of the books? I guess we'll see.

I didn't feel that way about the fourth Percy Jackson; in some regards, I almost feel it was too tight. I would have liked a little more exposition.