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Ian and Natalie Kabra, sometimes call the Cobras, might be Dan and Amy's greatest nemeses. In many ways, the two pairs are alike. They're the exact same age (Ian and Amy are fourteen, Dan and Natalie are eleven). They're both ambitious and intelligent. And both have absent parents.
But there are some glaring differences too. For one thing, Ian and Natalie's parents act as their rich benefactors, letting their children have any amount of money they need without supervision. As Irina Spasky says, "They let Ian and Natalie do all the traveling, writing them blank checks as needed" (7.21). Dan and Amy's parents are absent because they're dead. They also fight with each other more than Amy and Dan do. Our money's on Amy and Dan in this race; Ian and Natalie's bickering will be their downfall.
Ian and Natalie are also, frankly, little stuck-up snakes (not that we'd ever resort to name calling). They taunt Amy and Dan, bullying them physically and calling them poor. They pretend to poison Dan and blackmail Amy into giving up an important artifact. They don't hesitate to threaten adults either, arming themselves with guns, poisons, and a mysterious china doll that does who knows what.
Once again, it's easy to forget that many of the characters in this book are kids. Ian and Natalie are more devious than many adult antagonists we've seen. What is it that makes them such formidable foes to Dan and Amy? Is it their exotic looks? Their vindictive personalities? Or the fact that they're very similar, yet very different at the same time? We'd love to know why Ian and Natalie turned out the way they did. But alas, we might have to wait for the sequels for that one.