Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mystery Book Review: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

The 39 Clues Series

Scholastic (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-545-06048-6 (0545060486)
ISBN-13: 978-0-545-06048-6 (9780545060486)
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $12.99

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The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
Buy The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman

Review: The 8th entry in The 39 Clues series of adventure novels for middle school readers, The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman, opens with Amy and Dan Cahill landing in Beijing, China, in search of another clue!

In the previous book in the series (The Viper's Nest), the siblings learn they are part of the Madrigal branch of the family, and are dismayed by this fact. "It's like living your whole life without ever looking in a mirror," Amy thought, "and suddenly you see your reflection, and you're a monster." Still, they must move on and the trail for the next clue has led them to China ... though they have no idea what to do once they get there. But a location is suggested to them from a most unusual source: their airplane seatback videos seem to be stuck on the film The Last Emperor, which, according to Dan, must be the most boring movie ever made, when Amy sees a crest of one of the Cahill branches painted on a wall in the Forbidden City. Once on the ground, they make their way to the vast complex, where they go on their separate ways in an effort to learn what may be hidden there. Dan finds an ancient piece of silk depicting each of the four Cahill crests together with some Chinese characters. But before he can rejoin his sister, he's kidnapped by his cousins. Now separated, Amy and Dan must find a way to get back together before their rivals learn what they know.

In many ways, Dan is the more interesting of the two principal characters, and while both he and Amy are given approximately equal time in the book, those chapters and passages in The Emperor's Code involving Dan are the most enjoyable to read. Amy is more reserved and intellectual, Dan more impulsive and pragmatic and hates to be bored.

In the search for the 39 Clues, Dan Cahill had been manhandled, half drowned, blown up, buried alive, and poisoned. But this was the most perilous of all. He was being bored to death. A thousand-mile journey on the slowest train in Asia, creeping across the continent one rattle at a time.

And the author isn't above poking a little fun at the whole experience. The third chapter begins, "The 39 Clues may have been a high-stakes treasure hunt with world domination as the prize. But sooner or later you always ended up in some dumb museum. Sad but true, Dan thought as the smiling tour guide led them through vast halls filled with floor-to-ceiling display cases."

As with all the books in the series, there's a bit of history involved, which almost always relates to the search in some way or another. Sometimes, however, it feels a bit intrusive or contrived, but here it's more subtly done. And while the journey to the top of Mount Everest seems more than a little fantastic, it's written in such a way that it doesn't appear to be completely unrealistic.

Only two books remain in the series, Storm Warning to be published in May 2010, and Into the Gauntlet in August 2010. It's been a great journey so far, with The Emperor's Code possibly being the best entry to date.

Special thanks to Scholastic for providing a copy of The Emperor's Code for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. It's the most dangerous Clue search yet. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them – find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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