Jenn's Reviews > The Emperor's Code

The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
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's review
Feb 09, 2015

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bookshelves: e-book, own, hardcover, signed
Read in September, 2011


With no other direction than the knowledge that their parents had traveled there, Amy and Dan decide to search for the next clue in China. But apparently outside forces think they need a little more direction for on the flight there someone tampers with their in flight movie, so instead of watching Terminator Salvation like every other passenger on the plane, Amy and Dan’s screens play The Last Emperor, in which they find the Janus Crest and a starting point for their latest hunt for a clue. But they shocking discovery that they are in fact Madrigals is weighing on both of them and when it comes out in an argument in Tiananmen Square, Dan takes off. He only intends to blow off some steams away from Amy while they wait for Nellie, what he doesn’t plan on is being kidnapped by the Kambras and dumped off in one of Jonah Wizard’s Chinese factories where he encounters none other than The Wiz himself. Jonah offers to help him find Amy, but like any Cahill, Jonah can’t be trusted. How long can Jonah play his games of misdirection before the siblings learn of his deception? And with the siblings searching in different parts of China will they ever be reunited? The question becomes which is more important – the clue hunt or each other? But will they figure out the answer before it’s too late?

Like with my book seven review, my book eight review was written in the same missing notebook. I’m going to stick with my original rating, though having read this a second time for the purpose of writing this review, it’s quite possible I won’t mention all my original reasons behind my rating. I just have more trust in a rating that came from when I was reading these novels one right after another than one where I jumped in at book seven so that I could rewrite my review.

My first thought is that I don’t remember any mention of Grace or Hope and Arthur going to China in book seven. I don’t know if this is a discrepancy between novels or just because I didn’t start over at book one in my rereads. The book takes you through a wealth of China related history from the Forbidden Palace to Emperor Puyi to the Shaolin Warriors and the Great Wall. Is there a ton of information on any one thing? No, it’s littered with different tidbits throughout the text so it feels less like learning and more like an adventure. Even with its education value the text focuses more on the character than anything else as they come to realize what they mean to each other when they don’t have the other with them anymore. It also becomes obvious in this novel that despite all her flimsy excuses for the strange messages and behaviors she’s had in the series, Nellie is not just an au pair and it brings in the question of just who Nellie really works for and you can’t help but wonder whose side she’s really on. Like the rest of the series it’s a well written, fast paced close third person novel filled with action and danger at every turn.

While this book relies a lot on previous characterization for the characters with Amy and Dan split their characters gain new depth in this novel. In fact many of the characters in this book seem to have one thing in common -- a lot more doubts than they had in the beginning. Amy’s wondering if being a Madrigal makes her evil. She’s looking at the past thoughts and choices and searching for malicious intent, proof she’s one of the awful Madrigals. She’s questioning the actions of her grandmother and her parents and wondering if anyone in her life was truly good. She’s very vulnerable in this novel and that comes out when she lashes out at Dan. She comes to the realization that Dan matters more than anything and you really get to see her mature as a character while she working though the issues she has with learning about her origins. Dan is questioning the importance of the clue hunt, he’s looking at how it changes people, noticing how no one involved seems to notice anything other than the search for the clues. He’s wondering if now that Amy’s in the clue hunt if he matter to her anymore. You get to see him doing a lot of soul searching and maturing as a character while he discovers where his loyalties really lie. When Nellie’s employers tell her to focus on the clue hunt, Dan can take care of himself, she begins to wonder if she should be in that position and if her loyalty is with her employer or with the children she’s grown to love. Even separated you start to see the three characters really become a family in a way that’s beyond what they were in previous novels and in turn you see each of them mature. Jonah is questioning how far is too far to go for the Janus branch of the Cahill family. When he sets Dan up to be his decoy in a trap he learns that even he can’t leave an 11 year old boy to die for him and he tries to walk away from the clue hunt. With the danger picking up as it is all the characters are starting to mature and reflect on what really is important.

Overall I wouldn’t say this was my favorite installment because I really missed the Dan and Amy dynamic, but it was definitely a good installment in terms of character growth for the 39 Clues team.

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Jenn I recently heard Gordon Korman speak at a signing during which he talked a little about what it was like to write in the 39 Clues series as well as his other book and he mentioned that sometimes writer would get as little as an outline of the previous book in the series before they were expected to add to it. Considering that they all did a great job of adding to it and it also explains the little discrepancies in each book which bugged me about the stories as being less the writer's fault and more on the people organizing the series not planning enough so that everyone had all the details before writing their stories. Knowing that my ratings on some of these books seem a bit harsh since it wasn't really the writer's fault.

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