The Maze of Bones

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The Maze of Bones
The Maze of Bones.jpg
The Maze of Bones
Author Rick Riordan
Country United States
Language English
Series The 39 Clues
Genre Young adult fiction
Adventure novel
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date
September 9, 2008
Pages 220
ISBN 978-0-545-06039-4
OCLC 192081902
Followed by One False Note

The Maze of Bones is the first novel of The 39 Clues series, written by Rick Riordan and published September 9, 2008 by Scholastic.[1] It stars Amy and Dan Cahill, two orphans who discover, upon their grandmother Grace's death, that they are part of the powerful Cahill family, whose members constantly fight each other for Clues, which are ingredients to a mysterious serum. The novel has received generally positive reviews.


Plot introduction[edit]

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." Amy and Dan, the main protagonists, currently live in Boston, Massachusetts in an apartment with their Aunt Beatrice. Names such as Marie Curie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Napoleon Bonaparte, and George Washington were all part of one of the four family branches—the power-hungry Lucians, the strong and sporty Tomas, the inventive Ekaterinas, and the creative Janus, as well as the Madrigals. Dan and Amy are 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 (as shown throughout the series), the main characters do not.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins with Grace Cahill lying on her deathbed requesting William McIntyre, her lawyer to change her will to the alternate version and dies soon after it is changed. After he is sure she is truly dead, a "man in black" steps out of the shadows and talks with McIntyre.

The main characters, Amy and Dan Cahill, are then introduced. They are Grace's grandchildren going to her funeral at her mansion with Grace's sister and their guardian Aunt Beatrice. Right before the funeral Amy and Dan run into the Holts. The parents, Eisenhower and Mary-Todd, and their children, Hamilton (fourteen), Madison and Reagan, (eleven), turn Dan upside down. Then a non-random selection of many Cahills, including Amy and Dan, are called away in a private meeting for the will reading. Also called away are the Holts, the Kabras (nicknamed the Cobras); Ian (fourteen) and Natalie (eleven), Alistair Oh (inventor of microwaveable burritos), Irina Spasky (ex-KGB agent), The Starling triplets (Ned, Ted, and Sinead), Jonah Wizard (famous rapper host of the reality TV show "Who Wants to be a Gangsta"), Aunt Ingrid, and Aunt Beatrice. William McIntyre shows them a video of Grace Cahill telling them they're on the brink of their greatest challenge yet. Mr. McIntyre then says they have a choice, one million dollars, or a chance to be the greatest Cahill in history and gives them five minutes to decide. Dan wants the money for baseball cards, while Amy wants the chance in order to make Grace proud. Then the Kabras try to discourage them from taking the challenge. They are told by Mr. McIntyre that Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini and Lewis and Clark, among others, are Cahills. In the end, Amy and Dan chose the chance and receive a sealed envelope which contain a clue, they are the last ones to accept the challenge. The Holts, Alistair Oh, Starlings, Kabras and Spasky all accept the challenge. The envelope says: "Resolution: The fine print to guess. Seek out Richard S_."

As Amy and Dan think over what this means, the Starlings, Holts, Kabras, and Irina leave. Meanwhile William gives the kids Grace's last warning, "Beware the Madrigals." Amy then goes to the library but does not find anything there, but Dan opens a passageway into Grace's secret library where Alistair and they find a copy of Poor Richard's Almanac. They give it to Alistair to look at, but just then the mansion burns down. They barely escape through the vents (Dan grabbing Grace's cat, Saladin, and Amy taking Grace's box of jewels on the way out) and go home where they convince their au pair Nellie to be their chaperone for their trip. They then head to the Franklin Institute, later escaping when it collapses, which injures and decommissions the Starlings, and then head to France. There they reject the offer of Jonah Wizard and then 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. 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 Cahill's; Luke, Jane, Tom and Katherine, after who the four Cahill branches are named; Lucian, Janus, Tomas and Ekaterina, respectively. Inside the room 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 succeeds, but the vial is then stolen by the Kabras. However, Dan still has the original paper, which had been attached to the vial, and solves the puzzle for the clue: 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 themes[edit]

The major themes of the novel are talent and power.[2] 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.[2] The premise of the series is that the person to find the solution to the clues will come into an inordinate amount of power.[3]


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[4] and stayed on the list for children's chapter books for 24 weeks.[5] 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."[6] School Library Journal said that "the book dazzles" and "stands solidly on its own feet and will satisfy while whetting appetites for more."[6] 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".[7] 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".[8] Scholastic Parent & Child magazine also included the novel within its 100 "Greatest Books for Kids."[9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Amazon: The Maze of Bones Retrieved on 2009-04-27.
  2. ^ a b Stockwell, Laura. "Curriculum Guide for The 39 Clues series". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. March 15, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  6. ^ a b "Reviews: The maze of bones BETA". 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  7. ^ Quattlebaum, Mary (October 19, 2008). "For Young Readers: Books That Spook". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ Grossman, Austin (November 7, 2010). "First Pize: World Domination". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  9. ^ "The 100 'Greatest Books for Kids'". USA Today. February 15, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
Preceded by
The 39 Clues Series
Book 1
Succeeded by
One False Note by Gordon Korman