— The Maze of Bones, the first book in the first series
Quiz time: What is ''The 39 Clues"?A. Childrens' book seriesB. Web siteC. Collectible card gameD. SweepstakesE. 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:
Abusive Parents: This is most certainly the case with Ian and Natalie since, Isabel Kabra verbally degrades them on a regular basis. They both love her, and fear her simultaneously — while also thinking that they lead the perfect lives because of all the wealth their family has They'd be Woobies if they weren't so nasty themselves!
All There in the Manual: Inputting cards' codes on the website either unlocks a secret file or is part of a Clue Combo. Solving website missions' and inputting ultra-rare cards' codes unlocks one of the 39 Clues.
Arc Number: Despite its inclusion in the series name, 39 only shows up as the number of clues, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for it to be this particular number. (When Amy wonders about this, Dan points out that 39 is "a pretty sweet number": 13x3, the sum of the first five odd prime numbers, 3^1+3^2+3^3). (Presumably, the authors wanted a numerically interesting number that no one had used before.) 7 actually shows up more in the story (7 teams, Amy and Dan discover their family branch at the end of Book 7, and 7 captives in the sequel series. 7 is also the age Amy was when she and Dan lost their parents, and the next big change in her life comes 7 years after that, when her grandmother dies and the clue hunt begins. Then she gets a small break until she's 16, the digits of which add up to 7, when the Vespers attack.
Area51: The Lucians are in charge of this location.
All of the minor characters get this. If you look at reviews of the first book of the series, you'll see critiques of the "one-dimensional" relatives. Stick around until the middle of the series and interesting developments will begin taking place, especially - unusually for a childrens' book series - among adult supporting characters; the younger minor characters' development mostly happens in the last two books.
Chekhov's Classroom: All the things Grace taught the Cahill siblings came in handy on the clue hunt.
Chekhov's Skill: At first, Jonah's love of Shakespeare seems to have only been thrown in to show that Jonah has Hidden Depths, instead of just being a Jive Turkey and Teen Idol. It turns out that a knowledge of Shakespeare's lost plays is required to reach the end of the gauntlet and find the final clue.
Coincidental Broadcast: Used in book 8. Dan has just left the company of the Wizards, with whom he'd temporarily allied after he and Amy split due to an argument. He ends up watching a TV report on weather conditions at Mount Everest, where he suspects the clue that they're looking for is hidden - and suddenly sees a few familiar faces on the broadcast. Turns out that the rival Clue-hunting team of the Holts have beaten everyone else to the mountain.
Depending on the Writer: While sometimes there is geniune Character Development and the reveal of Hidden Depths, sometimes characters, particularly Ian and Natalie, undergo drastic and rapid personality changes, depending on how an author views them. For example, Gordon Korman tends to portray Ian as hot-headed and his sister as the patient and collected one, while in Patrick Carmen's The Black Circle, Natalie is the one throwing a fit when things don't go as planned while Ian is able to keep his head.
Everyone Is Related: Practically all the main characters are Cahills, with fans who make accounts on the web site also being "inducted" into the Cahill family. (However, it's a very distant relation, with common ancestors only as recent as the early 16th century.)
Follow in My Footsteps: The reason most of the main clue hunters, including Amy and Dan, want to win the clue hunt, and are so ruthless in the way they go about it.
Follow the Chaos: Even early on in the clue hunt, Nellie is able to locate Amy and Dan by turning on the news, seeing where's there been some suspicious-sounding trouble, and heading directly to that location.
By In Too Deep Irina has basically switched sides and wants to help Amy and Dan — but of course they don't believe her until the very end...
Hufflepuff House: Arguably, every single branch. Although the Lucians managed to get their hands on a vial of something-or-other in Book 1 from Ben Franklin, which then turned out to be the Lucian serum, part of the master serum.
Hypocritical Humor: At one point in the series, Dan complains "I can't believe she cheated me - right when I was in the middle of cheating her!"
Kissing Cousins: Almost any pairing in the book can be considered this seeing as almost every character is a Cahill. This is usually dismissed though, seeing as apparently half of Earth's population is one.
Literally Falling In Love: In The Sword Thief, Ian falls on top of Amy while saving her life, and the two share a kiss. However, the pseudo-Relationship Upgrade is short-lived, as he leaves her in a cave to die almost immediately afterward.
Also applicable on a smaller scale - there are seven "teams" in the Clue hunt. In these teams, there are, in total, seventeen people. Nearly every one of these seventeen people gets point-of-view chapters in multiple books, as well as a great deal of Character Development. Then there are the minor characters, some recurring and some not, and the villains who are not officially part of any team.
Look Behind You: When Natalie tells a disbelieving Hamilton that Amy and Dan just entered the building, he's surprised to find out that it's not a trick to get him to leave her brother alone, and that Amy and Dan really just came in.
Machiavelli Was Wrong: Well, he was certainly right in regards to Ian and Natalie's relationship with their mother. Until the last book, when they realize that, while they loved Isabel, they were only following her (mostly) out of fear.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Irina betrayed Isabel because of the latter's cruel treatment of her (although her "reward" for this was death), and later, Ian and Natalie left their mother after learning that she drank the Lucian serum and did numerous evil things detailed in her secret files. Then, when Isabel tried to kill them, that only sealed the deal.
Never Found the Body: What happened with Alistair Oh in Book 3. Dan and Amy were genuinely upset about his death until... they found his dirty glove and realized he must have survived then left without them
One Degree of Separation: Basically everyone is connected somehow—and practically everyone, Cahill or non-Cahill, knew Grace Cahill.
Though Lester may be more of a Sacrificial Lamb, given the fact that he was only around for one book.
Sarcastic Confession: When Uncle Shep asks what Amy and Dan are trying to do and why people are trying to kill them, Dan tells him the truth. Of course, Shep doesn't believe him, especially because Dan had made up several false, equally ridiculous stories before.
Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Actually a subversion. Amy and Dan aren't above stealing and lying if it means getting any information at all on their parents and the fire that killed them.
Although seeing as the prize for finding all 39 is super strength, intelligence, creativity and strategy skills that could grant you world domination... well, the way all the characters take it seriously doesn't seem too farfetched.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Occurs whenever alliances are formed between teams. Of special note are the Cahills and the Kabras in book 3, and the Kabras and Irina in books 5 and 6.
There Are No Therapists: Whoo, boy... It'd be easier to name the characters in this series who don't have some form of mommy/daddy issues.
Tomato in the Mirror: This should be two living Tomatoes and three dead Tomatoes in the Mirror. Book #7 has Dan Cahill revealing Cahill's family's branch. It happens to be Madrigals, a branch known for its secretiveness. The reason is explained at the end of Book #9, the Madrigals' main goal is to unite the all five branches of the Cahill Family.
Twin Telepathy: Amy and Dan aren't twins, but they are siblings who are pretty close and always know what the other is thinking by reading each other's facial expressions. Some fanfiction makes it practically telepathy, in any case.
Video Wills: How Grace starts the hunt for The 39 Clues.
Was It All a Lie?: Type 2 occurs in the third book. Amy Cahill wonders this after she and her brother make an alliance with Ian and Natalie Kabra, during which Ian flirts with her. The alliance ends with the Kabras making off with what Dan led them to believe was the clue, and in the meantime trapping the Cahills in a cave.
Into the Gauntlet: The main plot is resolved with the Cahills all working together to stop Isabel, then all giving their clues to Dan and Amy. But then we get a Sequel Hook:there's another important player, an evil organization called the Vespers.
Wham Line: In The Viper's Nest, Grace says that she can't listen to the music of Orlando di Lasso because it's "a sad reminder" of the Hope and Arthur. Amy and Dan have some of di Lasso's music:
Mon couer se reccomande a vous by Orlando di Lasso: A Madrigal, in Four Parts
Amy and Dan, repeatedly, towards Isabel, Alistair, Cora Wizard, and the Holts.
Alistair towards Bae Oh.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Ian tells Isabel that he doesn't believe that she would shoot her own daughter, Natalie.
Warning: By definition, it is impossible to discuss a Sequel Series without spoiling the first series, so expect a lot of spoilers.
The Sequel Series, Cahills vs. Vespers
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Noodle Incident: The Submarine Job never really explains the story behind Grace's decision to drive that car off a cliff.
Stalking Is Love: It's revealed in Operation Trinity that Ian watches Amy before the clue hunt via a surveillance camera, and there isn't even a hint that the author thinks this is wrong. The entire scene even seems to have been thrown in solely to please the Amy/Ian shippers.
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.
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.