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The 39 Clues, Book Eight: The Emperor's Code

Review

The 39 Clues, Book Eight: The Emperor's Code

When Grace Cahill passed away, relatives oozed out of the woodwork in hopes of getting their hands on her fortunes. But Grace wasn’t your typical old lady, and she didn’t leave this world in typical fashion either. Instead of a will and an inheritance, she left behind a quest involving 39 clues that lead to a vast wealth and the highest authority imaginable. Now, six teams of Cahill relatives are racing around the world, chasing after intricately placed clues left behind by other famous Cahills, including Ben Franklin and Mozart.

Fourteen-year-old Amy and her 11-year-old brother, Dan, make up one of the teams. Orphaned and unwanted by everyone except their beloved (and now deceased) grandmother, the siblings don’t have anything to lose and have decided to go for it. But unlike their opponents, they have no money, connections, or special training, not to mention the fact that they’re just kids. This team has the odds seriously stacked against them. But they do have a very cool au pair (a sort of domestic servant) traveling with them, and, above all, a great deal of spunk, smarts and determination. The race is on, and there aren’t any rules.

Book eight begins with our heroes flying into China. As usual, they don’t have much to go on, but an unknown someone slides them a hint on the plane. Instead of the action movie promised to everyone else on board, Amy and Dan are forced to watch a viewing of The Last Emperor, and there in the background they catch sight of the Janus crest. So they head to Beijing and The Forbidden City palace where six generations of Chinese emperors lived. And using their Cahill talents, such as creating diversions and crawling into places not meant for tourists, they discover some very important information for the clue hunt.

But while waiting to meet up with Nellie, their very cool au pair, Amy and Dan start discussing the horrible news they just learned about their own history --- the fact that they are Madrigals. The Madrigals are rumored to be the most evil of all the Cahills. So how can they and, more importantly, their beloved and now-deceased parents and grandmother be a part of such a nasty group? Amy and Dan break out into a fiery fight over the matter, resulting in Dan running off into the crowds. And then he gets lost. How can they ever hope to find each other in a land of a billion people?

After desperately searching everywhere for Dan, Amy and Nellie do what they had hoped to avoid --- ask for help from the competition. But even Uncle Alistair fails to locate the missing boy. Sick with worry and out of options, Amy and Nellie do the only thing they can think of: they continue with the clue hunt in hopes of finding him on the way. And the next step in the hunt is a huge one --- all the way to the top of the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest.

Gordon Korman penned ONE FALSE NOTE, the second book in The 39 Clues series, and he handles this leg of the race with massive excitement, lots of laughs, and a bit more evidence into this intriguing mystery. He pulls out some strong emotions with Amy and Dan trying to deal with the newfound truth on being part of the Madrigals, and then with losing each other; these raw feelings help make them more real to life and relatable. Not that the book wallows in emotions; THE EMPEROR’S CODE rocks with lots of action, adventure and comedy. Plus, Dan hooks up with a few monks and learns some martial arts; the rock star Cahill competitor, Jonah, arrives to play a big part in this volume; and more suspicions on Nellie’s mysterious identity pop up to confront Amy and Dan. Korman anchors all this with an impressive and expressive writing style that pulls the reader along for the breathtaking ride.

However, one can’t help but realize that this amazingly fun series is nearing the end, with only two more books to go. STORM WARNING by Linda Sue Park will be available on May 25th, and Margaret Peterson Haddix wraps up with INTO THE GAUNTLET on August 31st. But that’s not all. DreamWorks Studios is making a movie based on the series. So there is still a lot to look forward to, as the hunt for the 39 clues is far from over.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on April 6, 2010

The 39 Clues, Book Eight: The Emperor's Code
by Gordon Korman

  • Publication Date: April 6, 2010
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 0545060486
  • ISBN-13: 9780545060486