What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a fast-paced and fun mystery, despite the involvement of murders and assassins. There is no bad language or sex and the violence is about on the level of the first couple Harry Potter books. It's fun to see the four diverse main characters bond and watch out for each other as they follow clues in Rome -- teaching kids about the Italian city in the process, as well as a bit about ancient philosophies. This book will appeal equally to boys and girls.
What's the story?
Elettra, Harvey, Mistral, and Sheng were all born on February 29. They meet by accident in Rome one holiday season when they are 12 years old. A power outage draws them outside their inn before they even have time to get acquainted. When a man gives them a briefcase just before he dies, of course they open it -- and then try to figure what the contents mean. Over a couple of days, they undertake a quest for an elusive Ring of Fire, follow clues all over the city of Rome, meet some eccentric characters, and learn a lot about ancient philosophy. Elettra reveals a secret power to them, one that helps them escape from the assassin who wants that briefcase, but doesn't stop Mistral from being kidnapped.
Is it any good?
This is an action-packed mystery set in the beautiful city of Rome. The city becomes another character here, as compelling as the four children who form a quartet of seekers. Each child is from a different part of the world, but the first book reveals only the secret power of Elettra. Their friendships and the complex mysteries -- including several pages of photos, drawings, and maps containing further clues -- create a delicious, brainy fantasy for young readers. There's talk of a movie adaptation of the series, which will certainly draw more fans. Maybe not to the degree that The DaVinci Code drew in adults, but that's a tall order to begin with.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about how the four children form friendships and the kind of bond they form. What brings them together so quickly? What do they have in common?
There is much description of the city of Rome. How does this ancient city compare to yours?
There are many mysteries within the mystery. What is the biggest one of all?