Year of publication: 2008
# of pages: 218
# of chapters: 20
Plot Summary: Link to Wikipedia
Next book in the series: ONE FALSE NOTE, by Gordon Korman
The characters were unique and believable, especially Dan, one of the main characters, who made me laugh a few times throughout the book. I wish the whole book had been written in his POV. His insecure sister wasn't quite as interesting.
The plot offers puzzles and riddles to solve along the way. It was sometimes hard to tell whether some characters were working for or against the MCs, which kept me turning the pages to figure them out.
The story is sprinkled with facts about Benjamin Franklin and French words, a good learning opportunity for children. I had no problem with the French words, having grown up speaking French. I assume they were easy to understand for non-French speakers as well, either by context or with the included definition for less obvious words.
I counted seven different POVs throughout the book. Each chapter alternates between the two main characters, Dan and his sister Amy. Once in a while, a chapter (or part of a chapter) is written from a minor character's POV. Normally, alternating POVs work well when the setting is in two different locations or two different time frames. It's not the case in this book. Both children go through the same adventure at the same time. I didn't see the advantage of having both POVs. It took me longer to connect with the MCs for this reason.
Too many characters come into play all at once in the second chapter, about 20 of them. The main characters are introduced along with so many others, it's very difficult to remember them all and to figure out which ones will play a major role in the story. I would have liked to get to know the two children better before everyone else gets introduced. If it were my book, I would have created fewer characters and developed each one more in depth.
The cat really got on my nerves. I don't know any cat that says "Mrrrp" when it meows or purrs. The narrator translating its thoughts every time it made that noise was equally irritating. It reminded me of Sunny, the baby in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but it was done in an unrealistic way. If the narrator can guess what the cat is saying, shouldn't the reader be smart enough to figure it out as well, without being told? At least Sunny was funny. The cat isn't. Just plain annoying.
What makes this book unique
I'm not sure about the format of the book yet. There are supposed to be 39 clues and only 10 books. So far, I've only come across the second clue, after reading the entire first book. Hmm... After some research, I found out that each book unlocks only one clue. The other 29 are found online. A bit disappointing. I was expecting to find clues throughout the book. One clue per book? Oh, well!
The six cards that come with the book have nothing to do with the story. I thought it would be an interactive story where the reader could discover clues on their own using the cards. The cards are something separate, helping kids solve some online games to possibly win a prize. I didn't look into it. I think I'll just stick with the books... Seems like some kind of marketing scheme to me.
Each book in the series is written by a different author, which I found unusual. I'll have to read some more books of the series and see if there are any notable differences in writing styles.
I wasn't not too impressed by this book, which surprised me because Rick Riordan also wrote several bestsellers (such as the Percy Jackson series, which is on my to-read list). I was expecting a better writer's voice. Still, I'm looking forward to read the next book in the series. Hopefully, now that I know the characters and I'm familiar with the plot, it will be easier to dive into the next book. Who knows? Maybe that annoying cat won't even be there.
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