Let the hunt begin...
"Trust no one."
— The Maze of Bones, the first book in the first series
Quiz time: What is ''The 39 Clues"?
A. Childrens' book series
B. Web site
C. Collectible card game
E. All of the above.
The answer is E.
The book series by Rick Riordan
and various other authors, as well as the website, cards, and sweepstakes, deal with the Cahill family
, one of the most powerful families the world has ever known, as almost every historical figure from the last five hundred years is related to them. The family is divided into one of four branches - the Ekaterina
, who are the geniuses and inventors of the world, the Tomas
, who are explorers and athletes, the Lucians
, who are the spies, generals, and leaders, and the Janus, the artists, musicians, and authors.
When Grace Cahill, arguably one of the last genuinely nice Cahills, dies, she chooses to unveil her alternate will and kickstart a globe-trotting quest to find the source of the family's power. Such power can only be found by assembling all 39 Clues.
Our story begins when Amy and Dan Cahill, orphans who live with their disinterested great-aunt Beatrice, attend their grandmother Grace's funeral and the reading of her will. There, along with an assortment of colorful distant relatives, they make the choice: one million dollars or the chance to find the Clues alongside au pair Nellie Gomez. They choose to receive their first Clue, and are subsequently thrown into a five-hundred-year-old web of backstabbing, lies, and deceit. The first series follows them through the Clue hunt as they travel the globe, clash with their scheming relatives, and discover troubling truths about themselves and the Cahill family at large.
Flash forward two years to the beginning of the Sequel Series
, Cahills vs. Vespers
. The Clue hunt has ended, but a new threat has surfaced; it was revealed at the end of the first series
that the Clue hunt was really only a practice run for a greater conflict between the Cahills and a previously unknown rival faction. This group, the Vespers, are allegedly so evil that they make the Big Bad
of the first series look like Mother Teresa
by comparison. Now the Vespers have begun making demands of the Cahill family, and the lives of seven hostages are at stake.
Amy and Dan are once more sent on a trip around the world, frantically chasing down Vesper One's demands, while their teammates provide support from the Cahill Command Center
, a computer lab that has been set up in Grace's mansion.
Here's a link to the the web site
. Character sheet is here
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This book series provides examples of:
Series 1: The 39 Clues
Series 2: Cahills vs. Vespers
Warning: By definition, it is impossible to discuss a Sequel Series without spoiling the first series, so expect unmarked spoilers for Series 1 from here on out.
- Adorkable: Amy's secret nickname for her boyfriend, Evan.
- Also, the scene where Amy and Atticus are fangirling over old books in Trust No One.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Somewhat altered in The Dead of Night, in which Phoenix Wizard and Reagan Holt try to escape the Vespers' prison by climbing up a dumbwaiter shaft. Justified, since the characters are children.
- And This Is for...: Fiske dedicates a Vesper-kicking to Alistair.
- Anyone Can Die: Much more deaths than the first series, including Natalie Kabra, Isabel Kabra, William McIntyre, Alastair Oh, Damian Vesper and Evan Tolliver.
- Betty and Veronica: Male version with Evan as the Betty, Ian as the Veronica, and as of Dead of Night, Jake Rosenbloom as the Third-Option Love Interest.
- Black and Gray Morality
- Caper Rationalization: Silly Interpol. They aren't stealing because they're crazy criminals; they're stealing because a shadowy, evil organization has kidnapped seven of their family members and require that they steal things as part of the ransom.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Dan does this after escaping from Agent Vanek.
- Cuteness Proximity: Sinead toward... her gun in Trust No One.
- Darker and Edgier: There's no doubt that Cahills vs. Vespers is darker than the original series...
- A huge amount of Mook deaths occur, many with a healthy dose of Nightmare Fuel.
- Besides death, there's an increase in violence, and the authors don't shy away from describing blood - see Only a Flesh Wound. And in Trust No One, Alistair is Killed Off for Real.
- There are more deaths, both major and total, in Day of Doom alone than in all of the books of the previous series combined.
- Though the language remains (almost always) kid-friendly, it's obvious that more liberties have been taken than in the original series. For example, "ass" appears once in Trust No One, and "pissed off" also appears twice.
- A Love Dodecahedron shows up in "Dead of Night".
- Also, just take a look at Amy and Dan themselves in comparison with the beginning of the first series... or even the end. It's clear that their experiences have not only made them stronger, but also psychologically damaged them. (See also: Amy going into Heroic Safe Mode at the end of Trust No One.)
- Evil Gloating: Isabel goes on and on when she kidnaps Atticus.
- Face-Heel Turn: It is revealed that one of the Cahills ( Sinead) is a double agent for the Vespers.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The Cahill family, even if "friends" may be still a stretch in some cases.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's got it's own page
- Headbutting Heroes: See "Fire-Forged Friends," above.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Dan and Atticus.
- Hamilton and Jonah.
- Ian and Evan in Day of Doom.
- Heroic Safe Mode: Amy goes into one near the end of Trust No One, even referring to this "calmly observing instead of actually experiencing" side as "Safe Amy" (while the side that is actually living in the situation and experiencing it is referred to as "Scared Amy"). Last we see of her in the book, she literally takes off running away from the others after learning exactly what the Vespers plan to do (create a doomsday device) and realizing that she has given them the final piece they need to do it and how it has fallen on her shoulders now to stop it.
- Hostage Situation: The premise of the series is that seven Cahills have been kidnapped, and Amy and Dan Cahill have to fulfill bizarre ransom requests to get them back.
- Hostage Video: How the Vespers prove that they have the hostages alive.
- Hypocritical Humor: At one point in The Medusa Plot, Hamilton Holt complains that "Those guys ripped off what we rightfully stole!"
- I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: See Hostage Situation entry above and Revenge by Proxy entry below.
- Killed Off for Real: Alistair.
- Evan, Natalie, and Isabel
- Little Useless Gun: Sinead has (and uses) one in Trust No One. (Contrary to what the trope title may make some assume, it's definitely not useless.)
- Long Distance Relationship: Amy and Evan start one of these (carried on mostly via phone) after Amy and Dan take off on their missions around the world.
- Mixed Metaphor: Amy combines "late to the party" with "missing the boat completely" in Trust No One, in what Ian refers to as "that appalling mixed metaphor."
- Noodle Incident: In the bonus track on the Shatterproof audiobook, Atticus briefly mentions a few incidents from the past, involving things like sonar machines and Stonehenge, without fully explaining them.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Nellie is shot in the shoulder and lives, although she needed to have the bullet removed to do so. Her survival might not be as implausible had the removal been done properly by trained professionals. Instead, the incisions are made by a twelve-year-old and the removal is done by a thirteen-year-old, both of whom are inexperienced, and the latter of whom is so squeamish about blood that she has her eyes closed while she removes the bullet. In an unsterilized environment, natch.
- Parental Abandonment: As stated above, Ian and Natalie. Isabel disowned them. Also, Cora Wizard is no longer speaking to her son Jonah, and Amy and Dan's father is alive, meaning he left them to basically raise themselves for about nine years.
- It is later revealed that the last case isn't true after all, and that Isabel was merely trying to trick Amy and Dan.
- Revenge by Proxy: When the Vespers think that Amy and Dan are trying to trick them, they shoot Nellie, but she survives.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Isabel goes on one in Day of Doom after her daughter, Natalie dies.
- Sacrificial Lion: William McIntyre.
- In Trust No One, Alistair Oh.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Amy and Dan climb even higher on the Justified Criminal ladder with the things the Vespers make them do in hopes of getting the hostages back alive.
- Shown Their Work: Like in the first series, it's Justified. This time, Amy's joined by Atticus in her love of talking about history.
- Take Me Instead: Amy tries to trade herself for the hostages.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ian and Evan working together in the Cahill Command Center, though any of the Cahills working together qualify, since they had such a fiercy rivarly before the conclusion of the Hunt.
- There Are No Therapists: Or at least, if there are, Dan hasn't seen any, even if he needs to. (For that matter, several characters need to.)
- These Hands Have Killed: In Shatterproof, this is the instant reaction of Jonah after shooting Luna Amato at point-blank range.
- Time Skip: Two years have passed since the first series (making Amy sixteen years old and Dan thirteen).
- We Have to Get the Bullet Out: See "Only a Flesh Wound" entry above.
- Wham Episode: Happens constantly:
- A King's Ransom: William McIntyre dies, starting the Anyone Can Die atmosphere. The Guardians are revealed, and Atticus is one. Then Atticus is kidnapped, and Dan gets a text from AJT.
- Shatterproof: Erasmus follows Amato to the Vesper base, but she manages to kill him. Then Jonah and Hamilton show up, and Jonah shoots Amato. Furthermore, another big reveal happens in the online game, or the beginning of Trust No One for those who don't play it: Vesper Three is Sinead Starling.
- Trust No One: After the aformentioned reveal, Isabel comes back. Then V1 says they're done with giving him stuff, after one more: the Cahill Ring. Then we find out what the Vespers are using all of this stuff for: They're building a Doomsday Device. Finally, in order to combat them, Dan drinks the Serum.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The trading cards give major hints that Broderick Wizard, Jonah's father, is a Vesper. Because he appears in the original series and his character is even given a little more depth in the eighth book, it is expected that he will make an appearance in this series, one way or another. He never does.
Series 3: Unstoppable
- Break His Heart to Save Him: When, despite her repeated requests, Jake refuses to stop following Amy into dangerous situations, she attempts to get him to stop by telling him she doesn't have feelings for him, since Let's Just Be Friends didn't dissuade him, either.
- Heroes With Bad Publicity: Amy and Dan become this when a villainous media mogul targets them.
- Killed Off for Real: Pony
- Let's Just Be Friends: Amy tells this to Jake near the end of Nowhere to Run.
- Malicious Slander: Amy and Dan are the victims of this.
- Shout-Out: Jonah calls Pony "Pony Boy" and asks him if he's "staying gold."
- Shown Their Work: The Cahills and Rosenblooms learn a lot about ancient civilizations as they travel around the world looking for the ingredients of the serum's antidote, and they talk about what they learn a lot. Justified in that the information is often crucial to finding the ingredients, and a couple of the characters are really into history.
- Wham Episode: Countdown: Amy drinks the original serum, meaning she's going to die. Pierce gets Olivia's book, and starts trying to make a serum without side-effects. Nellie and Sammy are captured by Pierce's company. Finally, Pierce uses the book to set a trap for the Cahills and kidnaps Dan, and Pony is killed trying to save him.
Series 4: Doublecross
- Separated by a Common Language: Ian has difficulty adjusting to life in America, where he finds that many people misunderstand the British terms he uses.
- Shown Their Work: The historical facts start popping up on page three, when Ian compares his accomplishments to those of Napoleon.
The Companion Books include: Agent Handbook
, Rapid Fire
, The Cahill Files
, and The Black Book of Buried Secrets
Warning: Unmarked spoilers for Series 1 and possibly Series 2 below.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Cora's skills are listed as "painting, sculpture, manipulation, drawing, spying, blackmail."
- Katherine Cahill's are "reasoning, inventing, calculating, analyzing, double-crossing."
- Natalie's interests include "shopping, yachting, manicures, target practice" - target practice for her dart gun, that is.
- Hope Cahill's interests are "archaeology, baking, singing, explosives."
- Holiday Appropriate Weather: In Legacy when it is revealed on Christmas that Grace is going to die it begins to snow.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Played with in Crushed. Amy finds it amazing that a guy like Ian is visiting a girl like her. Ian finds it difficult to believe, too.
- Noodle Incident: The Submarine Job never really explains the story behind Grace's decision to drive that car off a cliff.
- Stalking Is Love: In Operation Trinity, set before the clue hunt, Ian stumbles across a surveillance camera feed of Amy, and he watches her for a minute. The scene seems to have been thrown in solely to please the Amy/Ian shippers.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Rupert of Silent Night really wants his aloof father to notice him.
- Young Future Famous People: The Houdini Escape features a young Harry Houdini, and there is short story about young Winston Churchill in The Black Book of Buried Secrets.
- Your Mother Has Her Ways: In Operation Trinity, Irina tells Ian and Natalie Kabra ''Your mother has her methods" when asked how they obtained information belonging to the Ekats.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: According to her offical social networking profile, Alana Flores has quite a variety of interests, including "chess, International finance... medieval torture devices, Scottish terriers."
- Chrissy's interests are listed as "cheerleading, dance team, cryptography, kittens, lock picking, gymnastics, karaoke, late-night expeditions." Natalie's are "afternoon tea, Catherine the Great, high fashion, female pirates, target practice, the south of France, fox hunting, being fashionably late."
- Dirty Cop: The Lucians have bribed many a police officer.
- The Fashionista: Lily Chernova loves fashion even more than math.
- Revenge of the Sequel: Parodied in an online message from the branch heads. Dan apparantly decided to use his new credit card to order The Ninja’s Revenge Part VII: The Last Revenge and The Ninja’s Revenge Part VIII: The Final Last Revenge on Pay-per-view.