Book Review by Debbie Winkler
Target Age Group: children ages 9 – 12
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
* Received for free for review purposes
Gerald Wilkins is a pretty geeky, awkward 13-year-old. He spends most of his time daydreaming about knights, dragons and rescuing fair damsels in distress. So he is ill prepared for his sudden inheritance of twenty billion pounds (about $30 billion US). Gerald never even met his Great-Aunt Geraldine! He is baffled as to why a woman he never met would leave all of her money, her houses, her Caribbean island, her yachts, private jet and more. And why leave everything to a little kid? Gerald has to figure out what is going on – and fast! Because the same person who murdered his great-aunt is now after him!
Gerald knows that his great aunt’s murder is somehow tied to the theft of the priceless Noor Jehan diamond (insured at 100 million pounds), which was somehow stolen from the British Museum just a few days earlier. As he starts his investigation, he makes some new friends in the twins, Ruby & Sam Valentine, who help him out of a pretty sticky situation. They manage to track the diamond to a private club and then to a country manor. But why is everyone after the diamond? And how come everyone assumes Gerald knows what is going on?
This is a fun, fast-paced adventure for tween & teen boys. There is plenty of action to keep restless readers occupied – and generous dashes of humor pop up unexpectedly to help bring a smile to your face. The plot is a bit of a cross between Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and The 39 Clues, with the author borrowing the spirit and characters from both. The plot kept my attention, but I did get a little bugged with the kids always being in exactly the right place at the right time to pick up critical clues that everyone else missed. I had a really great time at the end, though, as the kids discover some really cool old artifacts that they use to solve the first puzzle – just like Indiana Jones! It is pretty clear that the artifact at the end of the book is the tip of the iceberg and that Gerald needs to learn more about his family tree, just like The 39 Clues.
As far as characters go, they seemed like cookie-cutter copies of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger & Ron Weasley. Gerald is the focus and is kind of like Harry Potter, always in the right place at the right time and stumbling across critical clues without having to make a huge effort. Ruby is like the know-it-all Hermione Granger, full of facts and figures who teases the boys mercilessly. Sam is a luckless blunderer, like Ron Weasley, who always manages to do the wrong thing at the wrong time and kind of just follows the other two. I wish that authors would get over these archetypes and move on to something else. The fact that Ruby & Sam are twins and not friends falling in love with each was just not enough of a difference for me. I also was bugged by the fact that Gerald randomly exhibits magical powers sporadically throughout the book. Either this book is a fantasy with magic thrown in or it isn’t. I found the few insertions jarringly out of place and did not feel like they fit in the book at all.
The villains were pretty easy to spot if you read a lot. The main villain is, of course, a red herring, with an even more evil villain lurking in the background. I don’t know why kids never take the advice “trust no one” to heart and almost always spill their guts to completely the wrong person. Still, a few plot twists at the end left the door wide open for a host of sequels to come and I am sure that the author has every intention of releasing more books in The Archer Legacy series. I thought this book was interesting enough to warrant a sequel, but I do hope that the author takes some more time to develop his characters and make them a little bit more real. Right now, they are just a bunch of kids running around, solving puzzles and making snarky comments to each other. I hope that Newsome gives them some depth, some feeling and please, some weaknesses to make them seem real! Also, one more little complaint – please find another way to describe surprise other than bulging eyes popping out of their eye sockets. We get it already.
This book contains some violence, descriptions of murder, people dying in various traps, and mild torture. There is lot of British vocabulary used in the book so the language is pretty mild as most American kids will not understand everything that is being said. There are lot of bugs, snakes and other creepy, crawly things in crypts and old, moldy houses. Recommended for ages 8 and up.