Riordan, Rick. 2008. The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones.
First sentence: Five minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will.
So, if you're like me, you're probably wondering...how does MAZE OF BONES compare to The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson series? Better than? Worse than? Bout the same? I'll try to answer that question in my review of this first book in a new series.
One of the things that first struck me about Riordan's writing way back when--before Percy Jackson became the ever-so-popular series that it's become--was how great he was at crafting sentences and hooking readers. The Lightning Thief impressed me because almost every single chapter began with a great first sentence. Something so clever, so witty, so catchy, so intriguing that you wanted to keep reading.
Here are a few of the first (chapter) sentences in The Maze of Bones.
"Dan Cahill thought he had the most annoying big sister on the planet. And that was before she set fire to two million dollars." (4)
"Amy Cahill thought she had the most annoying little brother on the planet. And that was before he almost got her killed." (21)
"Dan felt a dizzy rush, like the time he ate twenty packs of Skittles." (35)
"Amy could've lived in the secret library. Instead she almost died there." (47)
Of course, those are just the first few examples, and the pattern doesn't always hold up later on in the book...but by this point if you're not hooked in the story, then chances are you won't be.
The book is all about mystery and adventure. Dan and Amy are a brother-sister team who have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to discover the family secret and perhaps save the world. True, the premise is a bit of a stretch. Two kids from a crazy-wild-dysfunctional family--orphans, but what else would you expect--set out to prove themselves worthy of the challenge set forth by their grandmother's will. The Cahill family, the clan, has the secret of all secrets. And it's a secret that some feel holds the key to the world's fate--for better or worse.
Dan and Amy aren't the only ones looking to discover this secret--revealed one clue at a time--there are teams from within the Cahill family. And they're all in a race to be the first. There can only be one winner after all. And most teams will stop at nothing to win--even if it means turning evil and trying to kill the competition.
This first book reveals the first clue and its focus is on Benjamin Franklin.
There will be ten books in all. The second book, One False Note, will be out in December 2008, it is by Gordon Korman. The third book, The Sword Thief, will be out in March 2009. It is by Peter Lerangis. Seven more books will follow. The tenth one is *supposed* to be out in the fall of 2010.
My thoughts. The book is entertaining enough. The pacing seems to be about right. The characters don't have as much depth (at least not so far) as I'd hoped. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, some stories are all about the characters and others are all about the action. And if you're looking for action, adventure, mystery, (and plenty of explosions) then this one will satisfy. The series seems a bit gimmicky in all honesty. Not that I think kids will mind that. The books. The trading/collector cards. The games on the website. etc. It's important to keep in mind that I'm not the book's target audience. What is important is if this book--and the remaining books in the series--will appeal to kids and keep them reading. Books need to be exciting to read. And series books feel a certain need. An important one. [It's not that Babysitter's Club had any *true* literary merit, but as a reader at that age, at that time, they felt a very real need. And I think these books can do the same.]