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Vespers Rising by Rick Riordan
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Although identified as the eleventh book in the 39 clues series, this novel is more of a transition story, setting the stage for the upcoming Vespers series. Book 10 covered the climax of the hunt, and Amy and Dan's success, and the secret of the 39 clues finally being revealed. Vespers Rising does touch base with Amy and Dan, but firsts describes a few historical episodes that show the Cahills are not the only powerful and dangerous family shaping history.

The story winds time back to the medieval era to introduce Damien Vesper, a ruthless and ambitious man. When the reader meets Damien he is awaiting a visit from Gideon Cahill, one of his only friends. Nonetheless, Damien is considering killing him, and even has a trap positioned to do so if necessary. He knows Gideon has been keeping a secret from him. Gideon arrives, and the omniscient third-person point of view allows the reader to learn Gideon's secret before Damien: Gideon has discovered a serum that makes a man faster, smarter, stronger. Unfortunately, the formula is unstable, and is killing Gideon. Damien triggers his trap, but Gideon springs clear, revealing to his once friend that his abilities are sharper, almost super human. The men part ways under the guise of their former friendship, but each one views the other as a mortal enemy. Gideon returns home to his wife and four children, and makes plans to escape Damien's attack that is sure to strike soon. He reveals part of the secret to his children, and gives each of them a portion of the serum, triggering, although he doesn't foresee this, the rivalry between the four Cahill branches that is to come. Sadly, Damien moves even more quickly than Gideon anticipates. His wife and children barely escape the house before Gideon incinerates his lab and home, destroying himself and all evidence of the serum. The legendary Cahill fire has occurred.

The tale is told with no chapter breaks, and switches from Damien to Gideon's perspective, ending with Olivia Cahill's point of view as she tries to regroup after her husband's death. It is basically a novella, describing the origins of the break in the Cahill family, and retrofitting the history described in the original series to introduce the Vespers as being there from the beginning. The rest of the novel follows the same pattern: three more novellas, covering various points of Cahill history and showing how the Cahills and Vespers are entwined.

The second story is about Olivia's daughter Madeleine, who was unknown to the other Cahills at the time of the fire. Her mother trains her to be a smart and cunning fighter, which comes in handy when her mother is found by Damien Vesper and killed, in yet another fire. Those Cahills are haunted by fires. Madeleine then seeks out her brother Lucian, is nearly killed, and realizes that her goals of reuniting the family and keeping the branches from discovering the full formula is a long game, maybe even longer than her lifetime. She also identifies herself as a Madrigal at the end of the tale. The third novella jumps forward in time to Grace Cahill as a young girl. Her mother has recently died, her father has basically abandoned his family, and Grace is trying to raise her young brother by herself. In the midst of these burdens arrives a secret message which Grace intercepts. The Morse code was meant for her father, but Grace realizes that he has dropped his Cahill responsibilities just like he dropped his family. Despite her young age, she decides to take on the Cahill legacy herself, and flies off on her first secret mission, in the middle of World War II. She succeeds in her task, besting a Vesper adversary in the process.

All of these tales are tragic, and operate as origin stories. The fire and sundering of the Cahill families, Madeleine's formation of the Madrigal branch, and Grace Cahill's introduction into a very successful life as one of the most skillful and cunning of Cahills. Also, the authors skillfully weave in the Vesper history line, showing how the hidden family/organization has been operating for centuries, even if the Cahills have largely forgotten them. Although this is guesswork on my part, I am pretty sure the Vespers were a late addition to the series. After the Madrigals were revealed to be goodish guys, and the Cahills started to unite, the series needed a new antagonist. Thus the Vespers were introduced, right at the end of the first series. Since the next series is going to be about the competition between the Cahills and the Vespers, though, this new group needed more grounding than just a last minute reference at the end of book 10. Vespers Rising serves as the narrative foundation for the new Cahill adventure.

The last novella returns to the present time, and joins Amy and Dan as they adjust to normal life after their whirlwind hunt for the 39 clues has ended. They are living with their Uncle Fiske and awesome au pair Nellie. Given their family legacy, normal doesn't last long. The children are soon headed to Switzerland with their uncle, trying to recover an artifact before the Vespers can obtain it. Their first encounter with the Vespers is harrowing, and Amy and Dan come extremely close to death twice.

Despite the different format, and the ulterior motives guiding an eleventh book tacked on to the end of a completed series, this is an enjoyable read. Each of the four novellas is full of adventure and suspense. Readers who are invested in a series and its characters typically enjoy receiving nicely developed back story. It was especially fun to see Luke, Katherine, Thomas, and Jane interacting, although I also loved spending time with Grace as a girl. The novel does a fine job of fleshing out the Vespers as villains and worthy adversaries, and pushing Amy and Dan into position to train and grow as a result of their experience. Clearly, this stories is mainly of interest to people who have already read the entire first series of the 39 clues. For those readers who want to continue the Cahill adventures and are prepared to read the next series, this book is a prerequisite. ( )
  nmhale | Dec 23, 2014 |
After 10 books in the '39 Clues' series, the 11th book finally presents the back story -- and is a collaborative piece between 4 different authors, who had previously written one (or two) books each in the series . And this is the best story, so far.... ( )
  MomsterBookworm | Jul 14, 2014 |
Love the twist to begin another series! ( )
  weisser4 | Jun 3, 2014 |
I loved how the authors combined the stories and how the suspense made me read on. I loved how each person had their own exiting part ( )
  SRaval | Jan 17, 2013 |
The way the authors of this series blend fact with fiction is absolutely astounding to me. I feel compelled to look up every little "fact" stated to see if it's true or simply part of the Cahill canon, but I stop myself because I REFUSE to destroy the temporary suspension of disbelief with this series (at least until I've finished it). ( )
  benuathanasia | Sep 12, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0545290597, Hardcover)

The Cahills aren't the only family searching for the Clues. . . .

The Cahills thought they were the most powerful family the world had ever known. They thought they were the only ones who knew about Gideon Cahill and his Clues. The Cahills were wrong.

Powerful enemies —the Vespers— have been waiting in the shadows. Now it’s their time to rise and the world will never be the same. In Vespers Rising, a brand new 39 Clues novel, bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson take on the hidden history of the Cahills and the Vespers, and the last, terrible legacy Grace Cahill leaves for Amy and Dan.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:01 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Fourteen-year-old Amy Cahill and her younger brother Dan thought they could return to their regular lives when they found the 39 clues. But the Vespers, powerful enemies, will stop at nothing to get the clues. And with the Vespers rising, the world is in jeopardy.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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