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Cole, "The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter" (reviewed by Russell Y Anderson) Options · View
Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011 10:14:31 PM

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Title: The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter
Author: Frank Cole
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 288
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN10: 1599554488
ISBN13: 978-1599554488
Price: $16.99

Reviewed by Russell Y Anderson for the Association for Mormon Letters

This book is based on the detective skills of some very smart teenagers, maybe too smart to be believable. Amber is the main character.

"At fourteen years old and attending the very prestigious Roland and Tesh Private School for the Advanced, where Dorothy instructed my independent archeology class, I never had many opportunities to enjoy any time off campus. So when Dorothy invited me to accompany her to the museum for some late-night research, I jumped at the chance. It was my fault for assuming the research would be legal." (p. 2)

After Dorothy's sudden departure, some of the students get a letter.

"'This letter is encrypted.' Goose bumps rose on my arms. I knew without a doubt in my mind. Dorothy had sent us a hidden message. She had done it before on a few other occasions, and each time I had figured it out. Sure, I earned extra credit, but that didn't matter since I had a perfect score in the class. I did it because I loved coded messages, and Dorothy's were the best." (p. 13)

"Most of the students in Ms. Holcomb's class treated it like any other course. But a small group I had organized took our studies a bit more seriously. Every Friday evening, the four of us would meet on campus to discuss archeology. With the exception of Joseph, we all got the best grades in the class. But what Joseph lacked in test scores he made up for with enthusiasm." (p. 14)

The secret message in the letters leads them to an old Hebrew dictionary in their teacher's classroom. You would think that such a dictionary would be used to help decipher some words in Hebrew. But the results I found somewhat more unlikely.

"After finishing a second pass with the same result, I closed the dictionary and ran my fingers across the weathered leather cover. It looked as though some air had formed a pocket beneath the inner lining. I pressed on the bubble and heard the sound of air escaping through a hole in the cover. Was that supposed to make a sound? My heart pounded with excitement as I opened the cover and searched for some sort of perforated edge. Seconds later, I pulled open the lining revealing a folded piece of paper." (p. 24)

Now we get to learn more about the teacher and her sometimes mysterious actions.

"There's an artifact I went to obtain but failed. The problem, however, is that there's also an evil group hunting the same artifact. It's a heated race, and I've passed the baton to you. You must find this valuable object and keep it well hidden. I can't tell you what it is, nor what it does, but it is very dangerous, and if it fell into the wrong hands . . ." (p. 25)

Here is one of the reasons I have a problem with this story. This letter that is hidden in this Hebrew dictionary must have been written before many of her trips and would not apply just to this last trip. But as the letter goes on it seems to be much too specific for the current situation.

The story is tied very much to today's culture and technology. It was fun to see Trendon use his iPhone, first to locate an address: "'Our guy has a current eBay account with the handle of CaptianKip226. Three months ago, he included his address on his profile and bingo.' Without looking up from his screen, Trendon gestured towards the small apartment." (p. 49)

Later, "Trendon flashed his iPhone at me, and a breaking news message showed up on the screen. The headline read: College Student Poisoned at Local Archaeologist's Apartment. I swallowed" (p. 69)

I was a little surprised that the big bad guy didn't seem to act as bad as I would have expected. I thought the subtle spelling shift for Mount Ararat (where Noah's ark landed) to mount Arayat, added an interesting twist to the story.

This is an exciting book and enjoyable to read how these teenagers are able to overcome many difficulties and solve the riddles to complete their mission. But after their initial success at overcoming very large odds, the rest of the story has some of them as participants in a story where they don't have very much control. Nevertheless, the story is interesting and exciting as they retrieve the hidden scepter and come to understand its amazing power.
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