The Copernicus Legacy sounded like an enjoyable adventure story for kids and adults. The premise has some definite similarities to other middle grade series of recent years so I was worried it was just fall into the “more of the same” category. While there are elements of “sameness”, there are also enough differences to keep the story fresh and fun.
The older series I most thought of when starting this book was the 39 Clues series. In that series, a group of different family lines are pitted against each other in a global treasure hunt for some ultimate power. As with many/most series for middle graders, the central characters were kids. In 39 Clues, I had a hard time accepting the plausibility factor of a bunch of pre-teens globe hopping and competing against powerful, wealthy adults without facing immense problems. I felt like Copernicus Legacy handles this one complaint much better than the 39 Clues.
The initial story in “The Forbidden Stone” starts with a pair of brothers, Wade and Darrell, who intercept a message sent to their father, professor Wade Kaplan, by an old school professor just before he dies. The message is mysterious but what really starts the family off on the adventure is the revelation that the old professor had died. Professor Kaplan wants to go to the funeral in Germany. Because his wife is out of the country on assignment, he has to bring the kids along. In addition to Wade and Darrell, they bring their cousin Lily and her friend Becca who were planning to spend some time at the Kaplan home. Thus the initial problem of getting the children to Europe is solved by setting up a family outing.
Once they arrive in Germany, it becomes clear that there is a centuries old mystery to be solved. Professor Kaplan tries to encourage the kids to just leave it alone and go home. The kids are torn between partly wanting to dive into the adventure and partly wanting to go back home. As time goes on, they are discovered by a secret society, The Knights of the Teutonic Order, hunting for the ancient Copernicus Legacy. It turns out that Kaplan’s old university professor was a Guardian of the Legacy. The Teutonic Order have identified and killed the Guardians and believe that Professor Kaplan and his kids now hold the clues required to find the artifacts that Copernicus left behind. As a result, the Kaplan family is now in danger and it seems the Teutonic Order has influence in numerous law enforcement agencies such that the Kaplans don’t know who to trust or who to turn to.
While the story is still definitely wholly fictional, I felt like the motives and situations were more plausible than some of the adventures in 39 Clues. Because of this, I found myself more invested in the success of the Kaplan group. As the true nature of Copernicus’ Legacy became clear, I found myself laughing a bit. In spite of the plausibility of other elements, the actual Legacy pushes the boundaries. Still, it’s an entertaining twist and the author presents it with significant authority.
The writing is definitely geared towards younger readers but definitely at least middle graders. Young kids might enjoy the adventure but a lot of the clues, discussions and other elements would likely be over the head (and potentially boring) to kids younger than 10. As an adult, I enjoyed the historical back story presented alongside the clues and the adventure. While the history may or may not be totally accurate (I don’t know), it is presented clearly and thoroughly enough to provide some pseudo education tucked up inside a fun adventure story.
In spite of everything I enjoyed about this story, I am a little frustrated that this looks to be set up as a twelve book series, one for each of the artifacts that Copernicus left behind. While it’s certainly possible that the author could combine some of the artifacts into a single book or maybe skip ahead in the adventure by having the other group find some of the artifacts, it’s also possible that there will be one book per artifact and another book or two bringing them all together. Either way, I’m torn. While I always love following a good story over multiple stories, there are so many series out there that it’s difficult to keep up with all of them especially with so many books in a single series. Even if they are released two books per year, there’s the risk that the target audience will outgrow the series before it’s finished.
Whatever the case, if you have a pre-teen or young teenager looking for a fun new adventure series, I can recommend Copernicus Legacy. One of the book blurbs calls this a mix between “Percy Jackson and the DaVinci Code.” While the comparison is not wholly accurate, the intent is understood and the claim is true. This book, and presumably the rest of the series, has the joy and adventure that will appeal to readers of Rick Riordan while being filled with intriguing conspiracies, mysteries and clue-filled treasure hunts. I am waiting for the reception from my 10 and 12 year old kids but I suspect we will be reading the whole series as a family.
4 out of 5 stars
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