Skip to main content

The 39 Clues, Book One: The Maze Of Bones


The 39 Clues, Book One: The Maze Of Bones

If you've heard about Scholastic's maverick, multimedia series, The 39 Clues, and you've come to read this review of the inaugural title, THE MAZE OF BONES by Rick Riordan, with the hopes that I'll share the game-launching clue found at the end of the book, you are about to be disappointed. Share the clue that will start a real world game where readers become potential Cahill heirs and there are thousands of dollars in prizes at stake?* No. I'm better than that.

I have honor! I have integrity! I have an advance reading copy that's intentionally missing the last 40 pages, so even I don't know what the first clue is!**

Here's what I can tell you about the partial advance copy I received. Think of it as THE WESTING GAME meets “The Amazing Race” and together they each power slam a gallon of Red Bull. Reviewing a book that relies on deception and clues to propel its rocket-like plot can be tricky: how do you lay out the action without spoiling the fun?  So here's my best attempt at telling you what's going on without ruining what's going on.

Fourteen-year-old Amy and eleven-year-old Dan are part of a very select group: they are two of only a handful of people with blood ties to the powerful Cahill family named in the will of their recently deceased grandmother, matriarch Grace Cahill. These beneficiaries are given a simple choice: they can walk away from the will reading with $1,000,000 and, in doing so, renounce all claims to any other piece of Cahill legacy, or they can surrender this inheritance for something potentially far more valuable: the secret that makes the Cahills the most powerful and influential family in human history. A secret that will be revealed through a worldwide scavenger hunt for 39 clues, of which there can be only one winner. With their parents lost in a fire years before and hoping to flee the guardianship of their tyrannical aunt, the siblings see little choice but to track down the 39 clues in the hopes of securing their futures.

A series of mini-clues involving Benjamin Franklin --- a distant Cahill relative --- sends the pair on a chase that takes them from their home in Boston to Philadelphia and, eventually, across the sea to Paris. Adding a sense of urgency to their quest is the understanding that, never far behind, is a legion of their scheming, underhanded relatives who would do anything to win the game...and the easiest way to be victorious is to take out the competition. Alliances are made and broken, traps are plotted and sprung, and the only rule to live by is the parting advice given to Dan and Amy by their grandmother's attorney: trust no one.

The real world game that readers will be able to play involves clues to be found in books, trading cards and various interactive websites. The books, however, are key to the fun, and if the rest of the series follows Riordan's example (different authors will be contributing titles to The 39 Clues; the second installment by Gordon Korman will be available in December 2008), they will contain riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas and be brimming with Cahill family intrigue. My only concern about where this is headed: can the answer to the mystery live up to the hype? One thing is for sure: it will be a great ride finding out!

* For more information about how the real world game works, check out

** And if I had the clue, why would I give it to YOU? Sorry, folks, but from here on out, it's every Cahill for themselves.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on September 9, 2008

The 39 Clues, Book One: The Maze Of Bones
(The 39 Clues #1)
by Rick Riordan

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2008
  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545060397
  • ISBN-13: 9780545060394