Thursday, June 16, 2022

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra

Gibbs, Stuart. Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra
June 7th 2022 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Charlie evaded authorities in Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation and Charlie Thorne and the Lost City, and now feels that there are further clues to be found while she's wandering around the world with the Einstein's Pandora code lodged in her photgraphic memory. She's managed to break away even from her half brother Dante and his coworker and love interest Milana, and has crashed a party in order to look at a tablet inscribed in Latin that may have clues from Cleopatra on it. It's owner isn't thrilled to find her in his private quarters, and even less thrilled after she chloroforms him and escapes. This is just the beginning of Charlie's adventures being chased by just about all of the secret service organizations around the world, who all want something from her. Since Charlie has money she has stolen from a company that stole her computer program, money is no object. When she meets up again with Dante and Milana, they follow the clues and find directions and objects that no one else in two thousand years has been able to process or find. These clues take them from Greece to Italy to New York, and Charlie seems to be unstoppable. Will she be able to find clues from all of the brilliant minds that have left them behind?

N.B. I read this on the last day of state testing (which went on for almost a month), so was a little cranky. I usually love this series, and thought this would be particularly great since I've actually visited Greece and Italy, but I found myself being annoyed at Charlie and her methods, especially ditching her brother. Probably just jealous of all of the traveling she got to do!

Strengths: Charlie has all of the qualities that many middle school students want-- autonomy from parents (who aren't dead, just unsupportive), unlimited money, super intelligence, awesome spy skills, and reason to travel the world. This is heavy on exciting chase scene, and the excitement rarely lets up. There are lots of people after Charlie and her knowledge, but she manages to constantly get the best of the bad guys. In this case, I was a fan of the bad guys being somewhat bumbling and definitely evil; while I appreciate a nuanced villain, Charlie is a more straight forward character. Her hunting down a college friend so she could get help from the girl's aunt was an interesting peek into her past. This was definitely a romp equal to or better than the first two books. It's hard to keep up that energy, but Gibbs does a great job.
Weaknesses: There's a lot of really interesting and helpful history of the ancient world, so this would be fantastic for the fifteen high school students still studying Latin in the US (remember, I taught Latin a lifetime ago), but sometimes there were rather large chunks of it that slowed the story down. I also found myself wondering how long it would have taken Cleopatra to get all of her clues in far flung places, given the rate of travel during her time, and whether her children would have been able to figure out the clues AND do all of that traveling!
What I really think: There's definitely at least one more adventure coming up, since Charlie mentions finding Isaac Newton's secrets, but I hope this series wraps up in five books. Any more than that, and it's tough to get readers to invest in longer series, even though the Spy School and Fun Jungle series are still going strong. They are the exceptions that makes the rule. 

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