A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This is the first in a series and is set in Rome. Later titles will each take place in a different city. Much historical background and cultural information is included. The children must put clues together and explore to solve the mystery. An inset of illustrations provides further clues. Many quotes included from people such as Seneca, Mithra, and Plato.
The four children are each prodigies in their own way. They are intelligent, brave, curious, and a little careless, but when a man in danger arrives they come to his aid. They form a strong bond of friendship, and their parents are kind and caring toward them. One depiction of a Gypsy woman seems a little stereotyped.
Positive Role Models
Each of these 12-year-olds is a different nationality. The girls are as strong and adventurous as the boys. They are not completely honest with their parents but they don't actively try to deceive them.
Violence & Scariness
The children encounter a dying man who has had his throat slit; Elettra uses her power to inflict pain on a guard by burning him; a hired killer stalks the children; one of the girls is kidnapped and nearly murdered. The children are threatened. The children were set up to meet and begin a sort of quest by adults, including the aunt of one of the girls.
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The word "hell" is used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One incident of adults drinking champagne on New Year's Eve.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.