Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review of The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

My review copy of The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (Scholastic, 2008) came with 6 game cards embedded in the cover. After musing about how this would work in the public library, it occurred to me to read John Mason’s (Scholastic's Director of Library and Educational marketing, Trade Books) accompanying letter – library editions, of course, will feature reinforced binding and NO game cards.

Game cards? Yes, this is one of those “it’s a book! And a trading-card game! And an online game!” multi-platform series thingies. There will be ten books (outlined by Rick Riordan and written by various authors including Gordon Korman and Patrick Carman), hundreds of playing cards (starting September 9, you can buy Card Pack #1, containing 16 random cards, for only $6.99!), and over $100,000 worth of prizes. Oh, and maybe Dreamworks movie as well. Seriously.

Luckily, the online game isn’t up yet, as the street date for the book is September 9, 2008, so I didn’t have to worry about that aspect. (The website is up, though, and I did learn that Rick Riordan’s last name is pronounced not “Reer-dun” but “Rire-dun.”) I’m a book reviewer, damn it, so I’m going to review the book!

Not that I got to read the whole thing – due to the highly secretive and lucrative nature of The Game, only the first ¾ of the book was made available to reviewers, and the first real clue was not revealed.

That said, this book is part Westing Game, part Da Vinci Code, part National Treasure, and part The Amazing Race. 11-year-old Dan and his 14-year-old sister Amy (orphans, of course) are plunged into intrigue and adventure when their beloved grandmother Grace Cahill dies and they learn that they are part of a huge and mysterious family that wields huge power and prestige. Members of the various branches of the Cahill family are offered a choice – receive $1 million now or forfeit the money in favor of one clue that will lead them on a worldwide hunt for the secret of the Cahill family. Teams compete viciously against each other, and there is danger and excitement galore.

As fans of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series know, Riordan has an accessible and appealing writing style, and he knows how to move a story forward. Dan and Amy are relatively fleshed out (Dan is a whiz at numbers and collects odd stuff; Amy is a shy and cautious reader), but most of the other characters, and especially the assorted evil family members, are completely implausible caricatures. That would be okay if this were a game of Clue, but I personally like my villains to have a bit more juiciness and moral ambiguity about them, not to mention a weensy bit of believability.

If this series encourages kids to read, I will be content (and so, he says, will Rick Riordan). If this series also encourages kids to buy many trading cards as well as millions of copies of the books, Scholastic will be content. Will children be content? Is this the next book-based craze?

We shall see.
For ages 8 to 12


  1. This sounds like a lot of work and I am very lazy. I even hated getting a pen and paper for the boardgame Clue when I was little. Hopefully I can read this without having to solve any puzzles. Where will the game cards be sold?

  2. Yep, I feel the same way! Supposedly this will be a fabulous reading experience without the game cards, but clearly Scholastic is counting on kids going nuts over them. They'll definitely be sold over the Internet, and maybe at bookstores as well.