Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998)
Choose Your Own Adventure (2005-) — no. 37
Pirate Treasure of the Onyx Dragon (reissue)
El tesoro del dragón de ónice (Spanish)
El tresor del drac d'ònix (Catalan)
The Treasure of the Onyx Dragon (Graded Reader) (Gamebook)
(Reissue edition, first printing)
Huerta, Catherine (Original edition - cover)
Morrill, Leslie (Original edition - interior)
August, 1990 (Original edition)
September 30, 2011 (Reissue edition, first printing)
0553286102 / 9780553286106
1933390999 / 9781933390994 (Reissue edition, first printing)
129 pages (Reissue edition, first printing)
|Number of Endings:||
|User Summary:||You and your sister Hannah live in Egypt during the school year while working on archaeological digs. In the summer, you visit your aunt Lydia in the Pacific Northwest. One summer, you discover a piece of a diary left by your father, who went missing several years ago. The diary refers to a sunken ship and the treasure it carried. Your Aunt Lydia tries to keep you and Hannah from investigating, but to no avail....|
(Review based on the Chooseco edition.)
There is no single, overarching plot to this book that I could discern; the story goes into very different directions depending on the route the reader chooses to take (with several of them not being even related to the treasure mentioned in the title). As seems to be typical of the CYOA series at this point in the Bantam release order, the sections of text are somewhat long, and all the paths end after two or three choices. These features do not make the book a bad one - Alison Gilligan proves to be quite an entertaining writer, and the length of the book (about 15 pages more than a typical CYOA entry) prevents the endings from feeling as abrupt as those in R. A. Montgomery's Silver Wings. Gameplay can be quite challenging as well. The artwork by Gabhor Utomo in the Chooseco edition is excellent (way above a lot of the crap that ended up gracing many of the CYOA reissues). Overall, this is definitely a good entry in the series.
Treasure hunts and historical mysteries are where much of the fun is at in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, and The Treasure of the Onyx Dragon dabbles in both. You and your sister Hannah have unusual parents, professional archaeologists who pursue ancient lore by excavating buried artifacts. You live near a dig in Egypt, but after your father passed away a few years back, your aunt Lydia suggested you and Hannah come stay with her on Seattle's Orcas Island every summer, and your mother agreed. You're intrigued by a bit of family history from generations ago, when your great-great-uncle McGuire was killed in a shipwreck on Puget Sound while captaining the Onyx Dragon. The ship was loaded with treasure, and you have evidence that your father had a lead on its whereabouts, but Aunt Lydia always avoids addressing the topic. One day at Lydia's Victorian mansion, you and Hannah stumble onto a hidden passageway leading to a secret study. Here you find record of three major leads your father wanted to follow up on regarding the treasure. Which will you investigate?
Unexplained lights that flash in the sky each year on the anniversary of the Onyx Dragon's demise may seem a good place to begin. If you go that route, you'll find that Aunt Lydia is suspiciously skulking around Orcas Island. Follow her and you'll cross paths with Lee Wa of Chinatown, a man Aunt Lydia is not friendly with. Why is he blackmailing her? You know the Shi-Wa family financed the Onyx Dragon all those years ago. Is Lee Wa an outlier, or are his shady dealings representative of the Shi-Wa family? Be wary whom you trust; a single blunder when dealing with the Chinese underworld could get you packed off on a one-way trip to Shanghai. Instead of following Aunt Lydia to her secret meetings, you could stay on course and pursue the strange lights your father wrote about. Doing so unlocks an assortment of adventures ranging from an encounter with a ghost ship to meeting a local tribe of natives with a special connection to the Onyx Dragon. There are multiple avenues to the treasure if you and Hannah are savvy enough.
Are phantom lights not your cup of tea? You could instead dig for a map supposedly hidden beneath Aunt Lydia's boathouse. Once you possess the map, you have a clear idea where the treasure might be in the angry, swirling waters of Puget Sound, and you suit up with Hannah for a scuba dive, unaware that other treasure seekers are hot on your heels. You might run into the Sanjani, a terrorist organization that won't hesitate to slit your throats if you interfere with their treasure hunt. You could also end up lost in a network of caves chasing a set of disembodied lights. It's easy to become hopelessly lost in the cave's labyrinthine waterways, or to happen upon the lair of the Sanjani, where they're busy stealing American secrets from the Boeing Military Defense Building. Can you scuttle their plot before national security is compromised?
Maybe strange lights and hidden maps don't interest you, but your father's relationship to the local Indians does. His notes in the secret study at Aunt Lydia's mansion indicate that an Indian named Mountain Spirit saw the Onyx Dragon sink; perhaps his descendants among the Coast Salish Indians know where the ship went down. Mountain Spirit's tale of the Onyx Dragon has passed down through the generations, but you'll need to convince Nahpee, the current guardian of the legend, to tell it to you even though you're not an Indian. Unsavory characters are after the treasure, including a pair of British thieves you spot leaving the scene in a Cigarette boat. Should you follow them, even if it delays your discovery of the treasure? You might be better off concentrating on Nahpee's directions that he claims lead to the exact spot the Onyx Dragon sank, but the waters are cold and dark, and the current is aggressive. An error in judgment while diving here will end your life. Stay focused on fulfilling your father's legacy, and you may soon possess riches to equal your wildest fantasies. Sharing the treasure with the Coast Salish Indians is a small price to pay for their help in finding it, and the injection of wealth will transform their quality of life.
When I read The Treasure of the Onyx Dragon as an elementary school student, I wasn't a fan. The story is slower than many books in this series, and most of the decisions are spaced apart by at least several pages. The variety of adventures is good, and a few endings are satisfying on a deeper level than usual for Choose Your Own Adventure. Dying in the cold, black grasp of the Puget Sound's currents is an eerie experience that feels real. The The Treasure of the Onyx Dragon is somewhat wordy, but entertaining. It isn't a gamebook classic, but it's above average.
Although the author's writing style didn't really agree with me, this is still a good book. The story is engaging and worth reading, even though I must say the spy and crime elements were a little out of place. Overall, however, I concur with stonemason's assessment.
This is a good, internally consistent adventure. Rather than revealing the same back story each time, though, it reveals different facets of the plot with each read. In this respect it reminds me of Danger at Anchor Mine (the 49th book in this series). Definitely a good book.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Mason Green for the plot summary.|
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Known EditionsOriginal edition
Reissue edition, first printing