Can you crack the Emperor’s Code? Before I read even one word to find out how poor Dan fared from the poisoning at the end of book 7, this clue embedded book, with its enchanting cover art, threw me into “code cracking mode”: auto-pencil and pad out, flipping through pages like a madman and deciphering the symbols on the inside cover. Heh heh… In case you missed the “sneak preview” of some of the Emperor’s Code Clues, click on the book image above.
As Gordon Korman, who also wrote book 2 One False Note, takes us on the continuing adventure out of Madagascar and into Beijing, the aloe vera treatment seems to have done wonders as Dan Cahill is healed and back on the clue hunt with his sister Amy, their mysteriously well trained au pair Nellie Gomez and of course, Saladin, their kitty companion. Their ambition to find the 39 Clues, as depicted in their beloved Grandmother Grace Cahill’s will, is overshadowed by recently revealed intel that they are not part of the Lucian, Janus, Tomas or Ekat branches of the Cahill family, but are descended from the feared Madrigals. Everyone knows that Madrigals are killers, traitors… the worst kind of criminals. How could their deceased parents, Hope and Arthur, be Madrigals! The orphans’ fragmented memories of their parents are of loving, wonderful people who were murdered by the evil Lucian Isabel Kabra. This painful information does not compute with the grieving siblings. Yet Amy, who is older and feels more weight and responsibility toward both the clue hunt and her little brother, cautions Dan to not rely too much on his memories. Dan, in a blind rage, runs away from his sister and her horrible words, determined to quit the stupid clue hunt 4EVER.
Alone in China, 11 year old Dan is an easy target for the Kabras, who immediately kidnap and viciously interrogate him, but dump him when he reveals little useful information. However, Dan is a Cahill, cunning and resourceful, and not only outwits their plans for his fatal “accident” but protects the critical information he did discover in the Forbidden City before their monster argument.
Puyi – The Last Emperor
The clue hunters discovered that Puyi was not only the Last Emperor of China, but like many influential people from history, a Cahill. Amy and Dan, now on separate paths and unable to connect in China, must both pursue the clues left by the emperor in order to reunite. They rely on outside help – after Saladin “discovers” their Uncle Alistair, Amy and Nellie cautiously enlist his assistance while Dan runs smack into, yo, the famous Jonah Wizard, famous hip hop “Gangsta” cousin and fellow Cahill.
While Amy is plagued with worry and guilt, Dan is living the high life hanging with the teenage rock idol. Jonah showers him with new hip clothes, Xbox games, über-snacks, hummer limos, private jets and penthouse suites. Not to mention hang’n back-stage at the Beijing Bird’s Nest Stadium. I’ll hand it to Mr. Korman, he sure mastered “Wiz Speak”, yo. Hilarious.
Then it gets ugly, well, I mean, in addition to Dan being tortured under the orders of Isabel “the human worst case scenario”. Amy reasons that Dan could have made contact with their famous “cuz”… but when she and Nellie catch up to Jonah, he lies to her face, sympathetically denies having seen Dan. (And what do you suppose he’s telling Dan as the same time?). But why? Seems Dan and Amy have caused quite a stir in their unpredictable clue hunt success and now are seen as valuable assets. Jonah’s next move is to take Dan to the Shaolin Temple in Henan Provice. Alistair reads Chinese and easily uncovers Jonah’s deception, so Amy, Nellie & Saladin head for Badaling Section of the Wall of China in pursuit of the Wizard.
Dan loves the Shaolin Temple, with all the shaved headed monks in orange robes representing 15 hundred years of super sweet kung fu fighting skills. He is even more ecstatic when he gets his own wushu lesson and learns about the 5th century monk Bodhidharma and the famous shadow stone. Rolling with “The Wiz” sure has its benefits, only, maybe Dan begins to see that even famous rap stars might have serious family issues.
After getting ill sampling deep fried silkworm larvae, Dan gets some air in Pagoda Forest and spots a distant statue of Bodhidharma in a coin operated telescope. He remembers that Grace had a small replica of that very statue they called “Beard Buddha” and sneaks off for some clue hunting. Meanwhile, the Janus Monk leader, Jonah and his father have planned some clue hunting of their own in the Terracotta Army at the Tombs of Xian, and they are not above using Dan as bait.
Checking into the luxurious Bell Tower Hotel, Wizard and company take over the entire top floor, enjoying private entertainment with plenty of Wiz media coverage. But later, the two Cahill cuzs steal into the night in search of the Terracotta Army clue, only to find it was a trap set by none other than the backstabbing Kabras… Jonah could have saved himself once things went terribly wrong, but proved he was “a Janus failure after all” since he went back to save Dan. Not the first time we 39 Clues fans have seen self sacrificing behavior during the otherwise cut-throat hunt. I’ve said this before… makes you wonder what the clue hunt is really all about.
Back at the Bell Tower, a furious Cora Wizard is waiting for them. Jonah tries to tell his mother that he “quits the clue hunt”, and she slaps him. Dan realizes that Cora was involved in his parents death and that they have been pulling platinum wool over his eyes. So, you think maybe Cora has “Isabel potential”? Dan ditches the Wizards and later spots the Holts, on TV, climbing Mount Everest! He decides pursuing the Holts is his best shot at finding his estranged sister and only family.
Back at the China Wall, Amy uses feng shui she learned from her grandmother and a luopan on the tower floor to figure out the clues left behind long ago. (Amy ignores the fact that Nellie is able to easily pick the tower lock). This “Indiana Jones” style clue leads them to… Mount Everest! Wow do those Cahills think alike!
While Amy and Nellie find comfy travel to Tingri, Dan stows away on a slow train, eating dog biscuits and sucking down yak milk. But brother and sister are finally reunited near the helipad of an A-Star Chopper, the only machine able to withstand the altitude at the top of the planet’s tallest mountain. The pilot lands at the top and they begin digging in the ice for the Emperor’s clue.
The highly conditioned and physically trained Holts are making their ascent to the top as well. As they enter the freezing dead zone, where you die one cell at a time, they are passed by none other than Ian Kabra, who is being carried in like, a space suit! Who knew, another Cahill family reunion, at the top of the world’s pinnacle! Just as Dan and Amy attempt to fly away with their clue, the incensed Eisenhower Holt pulls down heavily on their chopper, sending it spinning and spilling them onto the snow. In the pandemonium that follows, Amy learns a very important lesson about herself, and maybe being a Madrigal doesn’t define her after all.
Safe, warm and reunited, Dan shows Amy a photo he found of a woman who strongly resembles their mother. They realize the woman in the photo is Pirate Anne Bonny, so it’s off to the Caribbean for book 9!
As you well know, the 39 Clues is a multimedia storytelling experience, so I logged on to the website with my secret agent password and entered my 6 new cards (wu-hoo I have so many in my online collection now!) I’ll have you know I have completed all 7 missions. Whew! *wipes sweat off brow* And, I can feel the end of the 39 Clues coming… can you feel how close it is? I’ll be inconsolable when the books are concluded, 😦 but I can’t help eagerly anticipating all the final answers!
See you on the clue hunt!
Real footage of an A-Star climbing Mount Everest!
Purchase The 39 Clues Book 8: The Emperor’s Code from Amazon!