The Maze of Bones

The Maze of Bones  
The Maze of Bones.jpg
The Maze of Bones
Author(s) Rick Riordan
Country  United States
 United Kingdom
Language English, Hebrew
Series The 39 Clues
Genre(s) Children's novel
Adventure novel
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date September 9, 2008

The Maze of Bones was published by Scholastic on September 9, 2008.[1] The story arc of the series has been established by Riordan, but a collaboration of six other authors will continue to write the story through the next nine books.



Plot introduction

Many of the well-known names in history are said to be part of the real-life Cahill family, making it "the most powerful family in the world." They currently live in Boston, Massachusetts in a glorious mansion called The Cahill Ranch. Names such as Marie Curie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Napoleon Bonaparte were all in one of the four family branches -- the power-hungry Lucians, the strong and sporty Tomas, the inventive Ekaterinas, and the creative Janus. Dan and Amy are also warned to "beware the Madrigals," but what the Madrigals are is not revealed in this novel. While most of the characters in the book know which branch they belong to, the main characters do not.

Plot summary

Amy and Dan Cahill, the protagonists of the novel (who are their grandmother Grace's favorite grandchildren), attend Grace's funeral after her death. A choice is given to a select number of heirs: to find the 39 Clues, which will make the winner the "most powerful and influential person(s) on the planet", or to take a million dollars and walk away. Amy and Dan decide to accept the challenge. Their guardian, Aunt Beatrice, disowns them, and they receive the first Clue.

The first clue puzzles all of the competitors, and prompts Amy and Dan to check in the library for a man named Richard S-. They discover that Richard Saunders, the name they were looking for, is actually Benjamin Franklin—who was a Cahill. Amy and Dan, along with their friendly uncle, Alistair Oh, find an almanac by Franklin, which their relatives, like Alistair's father, Gordon Oh, and Dan and Amy's mother, Hope Cahill, have written in. Soon they realize there is a fire in the mansion, which ultimately burns it down. Alistair escapes with Poor Richard's Almanack and Dan and Amy are left with nothing but their grandmother's cat, Saladin, whom Dan rescued in their escape, and their grandmother's jewelry box.

They realize in order to travel to different places they will need adult supervision, so they enlist their au pair, Nellie Gomez, to accompany them on their journey. The Cahills find a lead in Philadelphia, prompting them to travel to Paris, France, where they learn more about Ben Franklin and their family.

After turning down a proposal from fellow competitor Jonah Wizard, whom they met after arriving in Paris, they follow Irina Spasky, who, due to a theft chain, now has the almanac. Irina lured them into a trap on an island, but they were later saved unpredictably by the Holts, a family who is also after the Clues. After their escape, Amy and Dan told Nellie all about the 39 Clues, and Nellie decides to help them.

With their information, the Cahills go to the Paris Catacombs. They find some bones which have numbers on them: a magic box number game, planted there by Franklin to give the coordinates to the next Clue. This leads them to a church where they find a room with a mural of the four original Cahills, after who the four Cahill branches are named.

Inside a vase is a small vial, with scrambled words on it. Dan solves the anagram, and they resolve to insert the vial into a lightning rod—one of Franklin's inventions—to charge it. Amy trades the vial with the enemy Kabras for an antidote for the supposedly poisoned Dan. Even though the Kabras stole the vial, Dan still has the important paper containing what they need, and solves the puzzle on the first clue they were given: iron solute. Amy's Internet searches for Franklin also have led them to the probable location of the second Clue: Vienna, Austria, the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Major characters

  • Amy (age 14) and Dan Cahill (age 11) are the protagonists of the series. They are the grandchildren of Grace Cahill. They became orphans when their parents died in a fire seven years earlier. Since that time, they have been in the care of their aunt Beatrice, before traveling to find the 39 Clues. They both have jade-green eyes, but Amy has reddish-brown hair, while Dan has a dark blonde color. Dan and Amy's cards are #2 and #18, respectively, but both also appear in card #200, and plenty of retailer cards.
  • Grace Cahill is the Cahill's grandmother. She has traveled all over the world, and settled in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The Maze of Bones starts with a scene of her dying, and in the last minute, changing her will. Her cards are #59, #133, and #197 (all as a founder).
  • Alistair Oh is an aged, Korean inventor (most proud of his invention: microwavable burritos). He is from the Ekaterina branch. He is also Amy and Dan's "uncle", with his father being a half-brother with Grace's father. His cards are #34 and #96.
  • Ian (age 14) and Natalie Kabra (age 11) are both from London, UK.[2] Ian and Natalie both have cinnamon-complexion skin, amber eyes, and jet-black hair. They are both Lucians, with their parents, Isabel and Vikram, being the branch leaders. Ian and Natalie's cards are #178 and #112, respectively.
  • Irina Spasky is a former Russian KGB spy. Irina is known for her poison fingernails and for her sneakiness. She is also part of the Lucian branch. Her card is #74 (as an agent) and #107 (as a founder).
  • Jonah Wizard is a superstar singer/actor. He is never seen without his dad, Broderick Wizard. He had starred in the reality show "Who Wants to be a Gangsta?".
  • Eisenhower, Mary-Todd, Hamilton, Madison, and Reagan Holt are the strongest team in the quest. Eisenhower and Mary-Todd are the parents of Hamilton , Madison, and Reagan. Arnold, the family pit bull, is also considered as member of the family. Hamilton is fourteen years old while identical twins Madison and Reagan are both eleven. The whole family wears matching purple jogsuits, and they always travel with Arnold. Hamilton, Madison, and Reagan are considered as their school's bullies. They are all in Tomas. Their respective cards range from #145 (Eisenhower), #90 (Hamilton), #187 (Madison), and #123 (Reagan).
  • The Starling triplets consist of Ned, Ted, and Sinead Starling. They have freckled faces and they always wear identical preppy clothes. They were put out of the hunt on the second day, due to an explosion caused by the Holts in a Philadelphia museum. In an interview with Patrick Carman it was revealed that they are part of the Ekaterina branch.[citation needed]
  • Nellie Gomez is the Cahill's au pair. Amy and Dan enlists her to be their guardian on the 39 Clues, unknowingly at first, but she later decides to help the children. She is of Mexican and French decent. She does not have any cards yet.
  • William McIntyre is Grace Cahill's mysterious lawyer, advisor, and "closest confidant for half of her life". He is one of the Man In Black's most trusted ally. He told Amy and Dan to Trust No One but they didn't listen to him. But what Amy and Dan don't know, is that that counts for William McIntyre himself.

Major themes

The major themes of the novel are talent and power.[3] The historical members of the Cahill family are all talented. Each branch has specific talents in a certain area; for example the Ekaterina branch is talented in the area of technology. The members of each teams in the family are obviously talented or have some other edge and yet Amy and Dan are viewed as the main threats. Over the course of the book Amy and Dan discover their own unique talents.[3] The premise of the series is that the person to find the solution to the clues will come into an inordinate amount of power.[4]


The Maze of Bones met with a generally positive reviews and spawned optimism for the rest of the series. It entered the Children's Books New York Times Best Seller list at number one on September 28, 2008[5] and stayed on the list for children's chapter books for 24 weeks.[6] Publishers Weekly said it "mixes just the right proportions of suspense, perils, and puzzles" and that it was a "rollicking good read", while noting that "the story does not end so much as drop off a cliff."[7] School Library Journal said that "the book dazzles" and "stands solidly on its own feet and will satisfy while whetting appetites for more."[7] Mary Quattlebaum, writing for the Washington Post, said that "though the villainous relatives are rather flat, the historical tidbits and fast-moving plot will engage readers".[8] Austin Grossman, writing for The New York Times, gave a generally mixed review, saying the premise for the series was "dramatic and instantly engaging", although he commented that Amy and Dan were "agreeably flawed characters but have an undeniably focus-grouped, manufactured quality — as does, let’s face it, the whole book". He also found the supporting characters to be made up of stereotypes and the writing "carefully bland, as if it didn’t trust its readers enough".[9]


  1. ^ Amazon: The Maze of Bones Retrieved on 2009-04-27.
  2. ^ Natalie Kabra in The Cahill Web of The 39 Clues official website
  3. ^ a b Stockwell, Laura. "Curriculum Guide for The 39 Clues series". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  4. ^ Riordan, Rick (September 9, 2008). The Maze of Bones. Scholastic. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-545-06039-4. OCLC 192081902. "If you accept, you shall be given the first of thirty-nine clues. These clues will lead you to a secret, which, should you find it, will make you the most powerful, influential human beings on the planet." 
  5. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  6. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. March 15, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Reviews: The maze of bones BETA". 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  8. ^ Quattlebaum, Mary (October 19, 2008). "For Young Readers: Books That Spook". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ Grossman, Austin (7 November 2010). "First Pize: World Domination". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
The 39 Clues Series
Book 1
Succeeded by
One False Note by Gordon Korman

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