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Book Review

Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 10th book in the "39 Clues" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In the first book in the series, The Maze of Bones, Amy and Dan's grandmother Grace dies and leaves them with a choice. They can inherit a $1 million or have the opportunity to search for 39 clues that, once found, will make them the most powerful people in the world. Amy (14), her brother, Dan (11), and a number of their corrupt relatives have chosen to hunt for the clues.

In book 10, Dan and Amy receive a package in a London hotel room that provides them with their next clue. A monkey shows up at their window, steals the clue and leaves behind a coin from Isabel Kabra. As Amy researches the clue on the Internet, Nellie informs them the coin is bugged. Dan finds other bugs in the room from the other family members. Once the bugs are destroyed, Amy tells them the next clue is William Shakespeare. They travel to the Globe Theatre to begin their search at a performance of "Romeo and Juliet."

During the play, three ninjas appear on the roof and send a message down the drainpipe. Dan and Amy retrieve it and are attacked by the many family members in the audience. Dan tears the paper in three pieces and, as the family fights for a piece, the kids escape and head to the birthplace of Shakespeare.

But Dan and Amy have misread the clue and find they are the last to arrive at Shakespeare's grave. The other family members are not fighting but are sharing clues and information with one another. The family leaves Dan, Amy and Nellie alone at the gravesite. They find hidden video cameras and decide to communicate in writing and make it look like they are doing drawings of Shakespeare. Dan does a rubbing of the tombstone and discovers lines that are invisible to the eye. The family members return and want a copy of his rubbing. Dan does copies for them that don't contain the extra lines. These lines give instructions to dig up Shakespeare's grave.

That night, Amy and Dan return to the church to dig up the grave. The mortar is rubber so it comes off easily. On top of the coffin is an odd shaped metal pole with the words Madrigal StrongholdCahill Ancestral Home repeated around it. Digging in a crack, they pull out a ribbon that has an anagram on it. The other family members arrive as Dan destroys the ribbon and gives them what remains of the clue. The teams chase Dan and Amy into an alley where Nellie waits for them in the car. Dan remembers the letters, writes them on the bottom of a T-shirt and finds they provide the exact coordinates of the Madrigal stronghold when wrapped around a pole.

Amy, Dan and Nellie rent a helicopter, whose pilot informs them that there is absolutely nothing at the given coordinates but the middle of the Irish Sea. When they arrive, they find an island that is not on any maps. The pilot lands on the beach at a graveyard, and Dan and Amy see a boat in the distance carrying the Holts. The other teams arrive after following a tracking device that was hidden on Nellie's car.

Inside the mountain on the island, the teams are forced to work together to make their way through a gauntlet. A panel in the elevator requires a representative of each family line to touch it in order for it to operate and for the doors to open into the other chambers. The teams fight all the way through the gauntlet, trying to beat each other to the serum. They find Isabel has beaten them all and is waiting for them in the final room with a vial of serum. It is a fake, and she needs a copy of all of the clues from the hunt in order to create a real serum to control the world. Isabel threatens to kill the family members left at the beach in order to persuade the teams to give up their clues. She mixes up a new batch, but a member of each family line lunges at her before she is able to drink it. Amy breaks the vial on Isabel's head, and the serum is gone. Alistair gives Isabel a pill that will erase her memory of the day's events while the rest of the teams give Amy and Dan their clues. The family works together to have Isabel put in prison for life and forgive one another.

Those who made it through the gauntlet are rewarded with $2 million, twice the original offer. Dan and Amy are warned that there is another family searching for the serum. By comparison, this family makes Isabel look kind and gentle. This hunt had just been practice for the one to come. The kids are sent home to rest and grow up a bit before they will be called on for the next adventure.

Christian Beliefs

The job given to Amy and Dan is to bring their family together again through forgiveness. The kids are commended for valuing human life more than the clues. Grace tells the kids in a letter that the rewards from loving others are greater than the risks. Amy and Dan forgive the family members for the things they've done to hurt them and acknowledge that they can't spend the rest of their lives hating. Fiske tells the children to reconcile the people that they can and bring the others to justice.

Other Belief Systems

The Kabra children have been taught that truth is a flexible thing. The teams are willing to lie, cheat, steal and betray in order to get the clues.

Authority Roles

Isabel Kabra's goal is to rule the world. She expects obedience or death. When Ian stands up to her and says he will think for himself, she slaps him, a move that destroys his trust in her. She later shoots Natalie in the foot in order to get Ian to cooperate with her. Isabel is obsessed with the serum and will kill anyone who stands in her way of getting it. She disowns her kids because they refuse to do things the way she wants them done.

Nellie risks her life to protect the children and then demands that the McIntyres thank the children for saving the world and apologize to them for all of the hurts caused along the way. She stays on as a "big sister" so that the kids have someone to watch out for them as they return to their regular lives.


Isabel and Starlings refer to Dan and Amy as brats. Amy calls Dan an idiot and a moron. Nellie refers to the kids as goobers. Isabel tells her kids that they are imbeciles and slaps Ian when he says he thinks for himself now. Family members constantly fight with each other. Jonah's mom blackmails him back into the hunt by threatening to turn him into the police for the damage he did at the Globe.

Eisenhower punches Dan in the face. Hamilton tackles Eisenhower in order to help Dan. Jonah is struck by rocks in an avalanche and is left unconscious. His family members run for cover and leave him behind. Isabel has the rest of the family on the island tied up in the cemetery and threatens to kill them. She fires warning shots into the air and then aims her gun at Hamilton's heart. She shoots Natalie in the foot and promises more if there is no cooperation.


A female fan kisses the limo window and screams, "You're so hot!" at Jonah.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

On the edge of the pages of this book are small shields representing the different family lines. If you use the key on the last page, the shields send a message that is decoded as "The Cahills aren't the only ones looking for the clues."

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 10


Margaret Peterson Haddix






Record Label



Scholastic, Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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