Ring of Fire: Century Quartet, Book 1 Book Poster Image

Ring of Fire: Century Quartet, Book 1

Meant to be "the Da Vinci Code for kids," and it delivers.

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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.


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.

Not applicable

The word "hell" is used.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One incident of adults drinking champagne on New Year's Eve.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • 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?

Book details

Author:Pierdomenico Baccalario
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

This review of Ring of Fire: Century Quartet, Book 1 was written by

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Educator and Parent of a 18+, 18+, 18+, 18+, 18+, and 18+ year old Written byTeresa37h December 21, 2009

Great for anyone 12+

I love that the children work together to solve the mysterious mystery. This book is great reading and I would reccommend this for anyone 12+.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Adult Written byBigMacPT August 21, 2010


i just love this saga, everyone should read it, btw, i'm 16
Teen, 14 years old Written byxxDESPAIRxx December 7, 2009