The Infinity Ring #1, 2, & 3: A Mutiny in Time, Divide and Conquer, and The Trap Door, by assorted authors

In an effort to duplicate the monster success of their 39 Clues series, Scholastic Books has launched The Infinity Ring, another multi-platform series blending reading and an online experience. The Infinity Ring series was outlined by The Maze Runner author James Dashner, and will be seven books long. The first three installments—Dashner's A Mutiny in Time, Carrie Ryan's Divide and Conquer, and Lisa McMann's The Trap Door—have already been released, with the fourth (Matt de la Peña's Curse of the Ancients) coming out next week.

The Infinity Ring series is based on a concept developed in-house at Scholastic: two brilliant middle-schoolers, Dak and Sera, have grown up in a world where the course of history has been tweaked countless times by a nefarious group called the SQ. (In this world, the Civil War lasted for 15 years, Christopher Columbus was thrown overboard long before reaching the new world, and Alexander the Great was assassinated as a child.) Unfortunately, the SQ's meddling has damaged the flow of time, and now Earth is galloping towards some kind of temporal Armageddon. Dak's scientist parents, meanwhile, have been working on a time-travel device, which a resistance group calling themselves the Hystorians hopes to use to restore the correct timeline. But when Dak, Sera, and a teenage Hsystorian named Riq get caught in a SQ attack, the trio is forced to use Dak's parents' device to launch themselves into the past...

The 39 Clues has one major advantage over the Infinity Ring series: the first book was written and the rest of the series was outlined by Rick Riordan, who has an incredible gift for making extraordinarily gifted characters seem relatable. (Seriously, Percy Jackson is practically a Mary-Sue, but I love him anyway.) Dashner lacks this ability, so his three main characters—Dak, a genius historian, Sera, a genius scientist, and Riq, a genius linguist—remain tough to swallow. Plus, neither Dashner nor Carrie Ryan exhibits much of a sense of humor, making the first two books even clunkier. (Maybe this is just me, but I like my stories about the 885-86 Viking Siege of Paris or the French Revolution leavened with at least a few jokes. Thankfully, Lisa McMann injects some humor into her installment—everyone enjoys a fist-bumping abolitionist, right?)

These are significant criticisms, and normally they would be enough for me to abandon this series altogether. However, I'm always depressed about my lack of historical knowledge, and I can't deny that a fast-paced, well-researched adventure story like The Infinity Ring is far more likely to hold my attention and linger in my memory than a standard textbook. I wish the authors had devoted more effort to plausible characterization, but thanks to this series I now know more about Rollo, the founder of the House of Normandy, than I did this morning, and I'm a happier and better-informed person for it.

Posted by: Julianka


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