Ring of Fire (The Century Quartet #1)

ringoffireEvery 100 years humanity is tested and it’s up to 4 teenagers to pass the test and save the world: that’s the premise behind Italian author P. D. Baccalario’s adventure series out this spring from Random House.  It’s December 29th, in Rome, and 12 year olds Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris, and Sheng from Shanghai are to share a room with their hotel owner’s daughter, Elettra. The four kids discover an amazing coincidence—they all have birthdays on February 29 and that is just the beginning of the strange events that soon engulf them.

Mysteriously, they seem to have caused a blackout in Rome, and as they head out to explore the darkened city, they meet a strange man who gives them a briefcase and asks them to take care of it until he returns. Soon afterward, the man is murdered by a ruthless, calculating villian with a deadly violin.  The kids open the briefcase and discover an odd assortment of clues and ancient artifacts for which they cannot unravel the use.  They must quickly come together and trust each other when they realize the mysterious man is dead, someone is hunting them, and they hold the key to a much larger destiny.  They spend the next few days searching ancient Rome for clues, all the while barely evading danger in their race against time and an impending doom they can’t even imagine.

Baccalario’s story shares many structural similarities with Scholastic’s popular 39 Cluesseries, as well as other movie, book and television sources.  There’s potential to develop the characters into more than just pawns on a chessboard controlled by shadowy, powerful adults and to develop the plot into something beyond a large scale scavenger hunt.  The pacing and action are well done throughout, as is the feeling of confusion and suspense.  In the end, Baccalario constructs a fair start to what may be an interesting and engaging “National Treasure” style mystery adventure.

  • Posted by Cori

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