Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: Ring of Fire by P.D. Baccalario


humankind is put to the test. Every hundred years, four young people must take on an enormous challenge. Another century has passed, and the children have been chosen.

Rome, December 29
A mix-up with their reservations forces Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris, and Sheng from Shanghai to share a room with the hotel owner's daughter, Elettra. Soon the four kids discover an amazing coincidence- they all have birthdays on February 29, Leap Day. That night, a strange man gives them a briefcase and asks them to take care of it until he returns. Soon afterward, the man is murdered.

The kids open the briefcase. In it they find a series of clues that takes them all over Rome, through dusty libraries and dark catacombs, in search of the elusive Ring of Fire, an ancient object so powerful that legend says even a Roman emperor couldn't control it.

In the first book of the Century Quartet, Italian author Pierdomenico Baccalario begins a mystery that will take four cities and four extraordinary kids to solve.


Ok, so let me start by saying that I really did like the book (don't I always say that??? That's why we only post about books we really like here!) BUT...slow start, really good middle, and weird, confusing ending. I suppose for now I will chalk the weird ending off as it being the first book in a "quartet".

Elettra lives in her family's small bed and breakfast in Rome with her Dad and 2 aunts.  For some strange reason, they over book the few rooms that they have for New Years and Elettra ends up sharing her room with 3 other kids from around the globe..Harvey, Sheng, and Mistral.  After a bunch of chapters where the author has the guests over the shock of being stuck together and gets the children acquainted with one another, the action begins.

After a mysterious blackout in the city, the kids sneak out for a stroll around the neighborhood for fun.  On a bridge, a man approaches them screaming "It has begun" and "They're coming!".  Well, as to not spoil anything, he gives the kids a briefcase and tells them to hold it for him until he comes to get it.  Sure enough, they do, and the next morning the papers show a picture of that very man, murdered the night before.

Now they have this briefcase that they know no one is coming back for. The kids discover that they all share the same birthday, Feb 29th,  leap year and realize it was no mistake that they were all over booked in the hotel and that it was meant for them to be together.  From here on, the book picks up the pace.  They search high and low around the city utilizing the contents of the briefcase (this is the part where I DON'T SPOIL IT FOR YOU and tell you what is in the briefcase) for clues that they are not even sure what will lead them to.  All the time being trailed by a Jacob Mahler, only an EXTREMELY dangerous assasis (can you guess who killed the guy on the bridge???), but for the most part, being one step ahead of him for most of the book.

The kids have some weird things happen to them like Elletra getting "feelings of extreme warmth" and Sheng's eyes turning golden yellow from time to time.  Even Jacob seems to possess some sort of ability to play a certain tune on his violin that is so captivating that it literally draws you in and puts many to sleep upon hearing it played.  The entire time they are searching for clues, they are picking up new ones, but still do not know what it is they are looking for.

Eventually, you learn about who the "man with the briefcase" was and meet a few people that are linked to him that help the kids out.  They do end up locating the "Ring of Fire" which supposedly possesses such amazing powers that it was not even able to be controlled by such historical figures like Socrates, Plato, and Nero.  Apparently, every hundred years, children are supposed to take possession of the ring of fire.  What they are supposed to be doing with it, well, I either missed that or that is what we find out in future installments.  WIth the help of a gypsy (very strange little old lady) and another associate of the "briefcase man", the kids finally outsmart Jacob and take possession of the "Ring of Fire".  Once again, I believe we will see in book 2 what happens next.

So I'm not telling you to hop in the car and hit up Barnes and Noble before you even finish reading this review, but if you happen to be there and feel like getting into a fun series, go for it.  I liked it enough to definitely be excited for book 2.  I am hoping that many unanswered questions do get answered.  If not, book 3 will be tough to get and read, but if so, I'm definitely in.

I can definitely see where the author is setting you up for what could be a really intense adventure.  The rest of the  books in the series take place in Paris, New York, and China.  In case you didn't guess, these are the cities that the other children live in.  They end the book by promising that they will not do anything with the "Ring of Fire" further unless all 4 are together again, which is obviously going to happen.

As you all know, and I'll remind those of you that are new to our "style" of reviews, if you don't see a book reviewed here, it doesn't necessarily mean we didn't like it, we could have possibly not read it.  What you DO know, is that if a book is reviewed here, it got 2 thumbs up.  So, with that said, this book was a toughie, borderline to making it on to the site.....Here's the deal....if book 2 continues and we learn more about "the Ring of Fire" and the adventures continue, 2 thumbs up.  If I don't get some needed answers in book 2, (fingers crossed) although the adventures are good, there's no sense in reading on.  If we do....strap yourself in for a good one.



  1. Davinci code goes on a philosophy trip? Sounds adventurous and thrilling. Maybe there is too much going on. I like the leap year birthdays and the mysterious cases though. Great review.

  2. Ooooo ... now you've got me intrigued!

  3. sounds very interesting... it's set in Rome, so I'm all over it! thanks for the review!

  4. Sounds like a book I new to put on my reading list. Thanks for the review.

  5. What an interesting book. I love that its set in Rome. I'm excited to read it. Thanks for the review!

  6. I remember hearing about this book somewhere else and I was very interested. It sound like a young version of The DaVinci Code (as far as the adventure part goes)

  7. An excellent review...Please add my name the giveaway list.

    I'm a follower :)

    I visited Laura Bingham's site, too.

    karen k

  8. This book definitely sounds interesting! The four kids following clues reminds me of the Mysterious Benedict Society series. That's a good series to check out too, you know. ^_~ I think there's a 3rd book for it...

    In the meantime, I will keep my eye out for this "Ring of Fire"! Even though you say the beginning is supposed to be slow, I think that, the way you put the synopsis, the bulk of the story should be quite enjoyable.

    ^_^ It tickles me to watch your follower box grow and grow by the score!

  9. Great Review - Makes me think I need to work harder on mine. This book sounds very int resting. I will definitely be adding it to by TBR pile.

  10. I like the way your review books. I only review books I've read and finished to the end. I always like something about the books I read and finish, some are just better than others.

    This one looks very intriguing. And I won't run right out and get it, but it is on my WWBL (Wanton Wantin' Book List)

  11. Slow start and weird, confusing ending? Well, that's enough for me to say, nah, I'd rather look at something else. But thanks for the review, anyway. Not every book is going to appeal to every reader. By the way, didn't Pierdomenico Baccalario also write the Ulysses Moore series of books for kids?

    I'm currently reading the Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer -- so far, so good!

  12. This isn't the type of book I normally go for but your review has intrigued me.

  13. Great review!
    I don't think that book would be for me though, thanks for sharing!

  14. ugh, sounds too complicated & confusing. I was one of the people that didn't really like Da Vinci Code either, so it sounds like this series is a "pass" for me.

  15. The concept sounds pretty good. But the fact that its confusing and slow at times doesn't sound very appealing to me. This seems like a book that could wait until I have nothing else to read. Great review though!