Saturday, March 19, 2022

Review: Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs

Today's author is a well-known one in the kidlit world. I've read several books in his Spy School series and was excited to get my hands on this third book from his Charlie Thorne series. No, I have not read the first two in the series, yet, because...well, do I ever do that? But after reading this one, I realized how big a mistake it was not to dive into this series earlier because it is much more exciting than I expected. But I'll let you read on and discover the rest for yourself.

Charlie Thorne #3
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Spy / Action
400 pages
ages 9 to 12

JUNE 7th!!!

In this third book in the Charlie Thorne series from bestselling author Stuart Gibbs, Charlie tracks down Cleopatra’s greatest treasure in Egypt.

Charlie Thorne is a genius. Charlie Thorne is a renegade. Charlie Thorne isn’t going down without a fight.

After tracking down incredible discoveries by Einstein and Darwin, Charlie is back. This time, the great ruler Cleopatra has left behind an extremely valuable and powerful treasure, its location encoded on an ancient stone tablet.

In 30 BCE, Cleopatra and her husband, Marc Antony, lost their war against Octavian for control of the Egyptian Empire. However, Cleopatra knew Octavian was really after the mysterious item that was the source of all her wealth and influence, so she hid it before committing suicide. She left a series of devious clues behind for her children to find it, but they were lost to history…until now.

In a breathless adventure that takes her across the globe, Charlie must fight for her life against ruthless enemies, match wits with Cleopatra, and solve the two-thousand-year-old mystery to prevent the most powerful treasure of the ancient world from falling into the wrong hands.



First, I have to admit that I haven't read the other books in the series. That's a mistake, but not because it was hard to sink into this book...actually, it wasn't a problem to immediately be drawn into the story and understand exactly what was going on (so, this can be read as a stand-alone). It's a mistake not to read the others first because this adventure is truly tons of fun to read, and I can only imagine the rest of the series is a treat, too.

Charlie just turned thirteen and has just discovered a huge clue to take her on her next search for an ancient treasure, which could mean huge trouble if it falls into the wrong hands. She's located an Egyptian stone tablet, which holds the secret to the power Cleopatra hoped to entrust her own son with before Octavian's victory. So far, no one seems to suspect what the tablet truly hides, but Charlie knows exactly how to decipher the clues. But even with her amazing intelligence, wit and skills, time's against her as more and more organizations realize she's on a new hunt.

Action, excitement, tension, and clever deduction make this an exciting read, which flows seamlessly from beginning to end. The fast pace keeps the reader on their toes, never leaving even a smidgen of space for boredom to seep in. Charlie races around the world, going from one exotic location to the next. Each one carries cultural flair and a few details to highlight the atmosphere, and yet, there's never a load of descriptions to slow things down, either. It's high-action the entire way through, and that with more than a handful of characters. Even each of these carries enough personality to make them intriguing, and each one harbors their own goals. 

While the action and plot twist this way and that with all sorts of unexpected moments and directions, the author manages to build in quite a bit of history, too. The first chapter with Cleopatra grabs and puts her in a more natural light than is often found in literature. The historical tidbits, which Charlie uses to pull the clues together, are as interesting as the places she visits. Throw in the illustrations of the clues she discovers, and it's more than intriguing mix.

This is sold for ages ten and up, and the subject matter does work well with the upper middle grade range and beyond. Sensitive readers might find some scenes a little harder, thanks to a few moments of violence...nothing over the top, but there are shootings and other harsher acts in a true, hardened spy world. For the average reader, it is tension pure and a gripping read.  

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