“THE COPERNICUS LEGACY, Book 1: The Forbidden Stone,” and “THE COPERNICUS LEGACY, Book 2: The Serpent’s Curse,” by Tony Abbott, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, $16.99, 410 pages and 481 pages (ages 9-12) (f)
Tony Abbott (author of “Secret of Droon” and the Underworlds series) has launched a new six-part adventure series for middle-grade readers titled the Copernicus Legacy. It features exceptional young characters who, in a quest to defeat an evil organization with sinister plans for the world, try to uncover a centuries-old secret about relics related to the treasures left by mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
In “The Forbidden Stone,” Wade and Darrell receive a coded message from “Uncle Henry,” an old teacher of their father, Dr. Kaplan. The message relates to 12 relics that must be protected. When Uncle Henry is found dead in Germany Dr. Kaplan; the two boys; a cousin, Becca; and her friend, Lily, fly to Germany.
Here the mystery of the New Teutonic Order, Copernicus’ secrets and the 12 relics begin. The groups’ adventures lead them through Europe and ultimately the Copernicus museum. They confront bizarre clues, messages in foreign languages, dark tombs and hidden tunnels in abandoned cemeteries.
Adding to the intrigue, Dr. Kaplan’s wife is kidnapped by the New Teutonic Order, which means the groups are not only seeking the symbolic relics but also trying to find Sara Kaplan.
In “The Serpent’s Curse,” the four young Guardians and Dr. Kaplan have found the first relic, a beautiful blue stone called Vela, named after the constellation, but attention is on locating Sara Kaplan. She is being held by the New Teutonic Order, which hopes to utilize her scientific abilities. They also seek the second relic called the Serpens. Clues lead the Guardians globe-trotting across Russia into Lenin’s tomb, an abandoned castle in Siberia and the canals of Venice.
The plot of the Copernicus Legacy stories is heaped on actual historic sites, and Abbott juggles a diverse cast of characters, intense action and some truly can’t-put-down moments with style.
It is the four resourceful young Guardians, the heroes of the story, who make the impossible seem possible. Wade’s keen observation and bookish skills accelerate him as leader of the group while his brother, Darrell, has unique abilities to stay calm in tight situations and keep the group even. Cousin Becca is a bookworm by nature, providing information at just the right time, while her friend, Lily, is masterful at technology and can schedule plane tickets and access the world’s knowledge through phones and electronic devices. It’s a winning combination.
The opposing forces include the beautiful and evil Galina Krause, whose mysterious immortal background is disclosed bits at a time as she leads the Teutonic Order, and her actions are pivotal throughout with malicious intentions. Abbott leaves no question to her motives.
While there is violence, it is mild and appropriate to the storyline. No inappropriate language is included.
Abbott, who has an interest in Renaissance history and science, uses Copernicus as the historical figure at the center of the series and then fills in the unknown parts with fictionalized secrets of a 16th-century world. One example is the introduction of an astrolab with possible space and time travel, which adds an eerie dimension to the mission of the Order where government officials and scientists leave readers questioning affiliations and loyalties.
To expand Copernicus’ legacy further, the personal stories of six of the characters will appear in a separate paperback novella series titled the Copernicus Archives.
Abbott is hosting a series of six scavenger hunts, called the Relic Hunt live events, through June 2018. The debut event took place at the Museum of Natural History in New York City on Sept. 13. Four children and their chaperones were selected via a national sweepstakes to fly to New York and embark on the relic hunt in the museum with the author as their guide.
The next book of the Copernicus Legacy is “The Golden Vendetta,“ scheduled for 2015.