“Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan” is a superb sequel to “Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas” by Jonathan W. Stokes. The series is aimed at middle grade readers who love action and adventure — especially when the main characters are quirky and clever.
Stokes also includes plenty of diversity in his cast of characters. Addison and his sister Molly are joined on their adventure by friends Eddie Chang and Raj Bhandari. The story begins when Addison invites his friends to accompany him, his sister, and their aunt and uncle to China to explore a Song dynasty fortress in the Gobi desert.
Addison’s quirkiness becomes evident from the start when for his birthday, “Addison was thrilled to finally receive the white linen dinner jacket he’s been hankering for, Roland J. Fiddleton’s pocket-size Asia Atlas, and a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.” It’s clear that Addison is not your run-of-the-mill thirteen-year-old boy.
Those who enjoy Rick Riordan’s clever word play will also enjoy Stokes’ facility with the English language. Throughout the book, readers will reread especially clever sections. For example, when Addison tries to save the life of one of the not-so-bad guys, he approaches the really bad woman and her bodyguard, Hu, and tells them that another bad guy is going to kill the not-so-bad guy who works for her. She replies,
“Boris is going to kill who?”
“Whom,” said Addison.
“I don’t know, that’s what I’m asking you.”
“Who is going to kill Hu?”
“No one is killing Hu!”
That’s it,” said Madame Feng, stepping forward. “Hu and me are going to kill you!”
“Hu and I are going to kill you,” said Addison, thoroughly exasperated.”
“Ducking the short cook pulling a frozen duck from the short freezer, Addison Cooke pulled up short, froze, and ducked.”
Finding that these clever bits of repartee are sometimes just a bit silly, but always beautifully done, will (one hopes) make young readers stop, reread, and appreciate — even if just for that short moment — the joy of reading a sentence which has been carefully and thoughtfully written.
The story is filled with non-stop action. This reviewer really appreciates Stokes’ ability to create characters who are multi-dimensional. While not delving into character traits in depth, he creates several bad guys who aren’t necessarily as bad as the reader might think at first. Many have inner goodness, and after being prompted by Addison, they show that inner positive strength of character.
None of the story is believable, but neither are the Indiana Jones movies. Like them, the beauty of Addison Cooke’s adventures includes the fabulous main character and the incredible situations in which he finds himself (and his friends).
I highly recommend this series for any middle grade reader for many reasons. While the adventure is fabulous, so is the writing. It’s not a thoughtful story about prejudice like, for example, Katherine Applegate’s “Wishtree,” but it is a clever and well-done fast-paced adventure for intrepid readers. It’s appropriate for a wide range of reading skills. While capable third-graders could read it, they will probably miss its more subtle points. but kids through middle school would enjoy the action, just as would the younger ones.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Philomel, for review purposes.