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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New 39 Clues-ish Series Off to a So-So Start

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I'm used to people asking me what I'm reading.  Happens all the time.  But, I can honestly say that I've never gotten that question from a young boy (one I didn't birth, anyway).  I had to chuckle when I saw this kid sneaking covert glances at the cover of my book—A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner.  When I showed it to him, he gasped.  "Is that like, a new 39 Clues book?"  he asked.  I told him the Infinity Ring series was like 39 Clues, but not the same.  To which the skeptical youth replied, "It really looks like a 39 Clues book."  I proceeded to give him a point-by-point compare/contrast lecture on the differences and similarities between the two series (I didn't, really).  Maybe I should have though, because I could tell the kid remained unconvinced.  He really believed I was holding out on him.  The encounter made me smile, not just because of the boy's hardheaded refusal to accept the fact that Scholastic might really be publishing a new 39 Clues-ish series, but because I could see the naked book hunger in his eyes.  If I had been closer to finishing A Mutiny in Time, I swear I would have handed it over to the kid, just because I love putting shiny new stories into the hands of eager readers.

If you, like this boy, doubt my book smarts, let me tell you for sure and certain—the Infinity Ring series is not a 39 Clues spin-off.  It's a brand new adventure series.  Yes, the books are the same size and shape as the 39 Clues ones and yes, each volume will be written by a different children's author.  Like 39 Clues, the Infinity Ring also has an online game that lets you interact with the story even more.  I'm sure there are even more similarities, but since I haven't actually read any of the 39 Clues books (Shhh—don't tell the kid), I don't know what they might be.  

How about this—I'll give you a little plot summary and you can decide for yourself:

Junior high school students Dak Smyth and Sera Froste are best friends and fellow geniuses.  One day, they decide to sneak into the lab of Dak's scientist parents.  There, they discover the Infinity Ring, a gadget that seems to be designed to catapult a person backward and forward in time.  Theoretically, anyway.  The device doesn't actually work.  That is, until Sera gets hold of it.  With her super brain, she manages to make the gizmo work, a feat which astonishes the adult Smyths.  Not to mention freaks them out, because now that the invention is functioning, it's bound to bring them all kinds of unwanted attention.  Which is exactly what happens.  Several different organizations want the Infinity Ring so badly that they're willing to do almost anything to get it.  In order to save Dak's parents, who are now lost somewhere in time, Dak and Sera agree to help the Hystorians, an ancient group whose members are tasked with fixing moments in history that have gone awry.  Mending these little errors turns out to be no small job.  Are Dak and Sera up to the challenge?  Or will the Smyths be lost in time forever?

Although there's nothing especially original about A Mutiny in Time, it's still a fun, fast-moving adventure that's going to keep young readers entertained while teaching them a little history at the same time.  I would have liked better developed characters, snappier dialogue and some surprising twists and turns, but, yeah, I guess I'll have to wait for the next few books in the series to get that.  Overall, I'm not blown away by the series start.  It's got potential, though, so we'll see where it goes ...

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other time travel series for kids, like The Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne [although the Infinity Ring series is geared toward a little bit older readers])

Grade:  C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Mutiny in Time as well as a finished copy (which I donated to the library at my children's elementary school) thanks to the very generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!  


  1. I checked this one out because the premise reminds me of the old "Voyagers" tv show. Remember that? I read a couple of chapters. Then the boys got a hold of it, and I started reading Mistborn instead. Now I pretty much don't care about anything else...

    1. LOL - I totally understand. I'd take MISTBORN over a MG adventure/time travel story any day!

  2. James Dashner is pretty much the favorite author of my son's 6th grade class. I'll have to introduce him to the new series...and maybe 39 Clues too...(he doesn't like to read).

    1. These series (39 Clues and Infinity Ring) are really good for reluctant boy readers because they're fast and packed with action. Plus, there are tons of them, so if your son likes the first one, maybe he'll be eager to read the next ones, you know?

  3. My goal in life is to have ARCs running out my ears. I will then sit in public places and read them in a conspicuous manner, just so I can cause "naked book hunger" in other book lovers! LOL! Love it! I'm not usually a huge MG fan. I did enjoy Dashner's YA series though.
    Sarah's YA Blog

    1. You're hilarious, Sarah!

      I like Dashner more as a YA author, too. I couldn't get into the 13th Reality series at all, but I did like the Maze Runner books (the two that I've read anyway).

  4. I've never read these but I'm not a huge fan of middle grade so I'm not sure I'll ever bother...maybe when I have kids.

    1. I actually love MG books because they're generally quick, easy reads. However, there's a big difference between series like 39 Clues and the more meaty MGs. I definitely prefer the latter. And, yeah, I think you will read more MG when you have kids, since that's what they'll be reading.


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