A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A wealth of historical, geographic, scientific, and period detail. Also, fans may be inspired to read the other books in this series.
Good versus evil themes as a brother and sister try to solve a mystery and get their missing parents back.
Positive Role Models
The siblings are reflexively disobedient and defiant, often putting themselves and others in extreme danger. But they are curious and adventurous -- and work together to save their parents and stay alive.
Violence & Scariness
Swordfighting, explosions, battles, murder, torture, dead and decaying bodies and body parts, rats and snakes, a pirate who cuts the little fingers off his still-living victims, including two of the characters, and wears them as a necklace.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some drinking and smoking, and opium is mentioned several times: an evil character uses it, and forces his captive to do the same.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, though little is described in graphic detail, the level of violence is pretty high for a children's book. And while it is fantasy violence, it can be intense: At one point, the protagonists are chained for two days in a cage that floods almost to the top at high tide, and at another they are trapped in a flooding cave filled with rats and snakes. This book -- and its many sequels -- includes a wealth of historical, geographic, scientific, and period detail. Also, fans may be inspired to read the other books in this series. It also features curious and adventurous siblings who work together to save their parents and stay alive.
Is It Any Good?
This mystery/adventure is a delightful mix of Jules Verne, Tom Swift, and Sherlock Holmes. It combines swordfighting, exotic locales, lots of science and pseudo-science, photos, maps, appendices, and nonstop excitement, all making for a rich and stimulating reading experience. Purporting to be from a secret underground archive found when the author's great-aunt -- who was the young girl of the story -- died and left him her house, it boasts an incredible level of detail and extras. They show a devotion to the creation of this fictional society that borders on the obsessive. From the moment you pick up this book, it is purely enjoyable – the kind of plain, old-fashioned literary fun you rarely see nowadays.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.