Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

P.D. Baccalario
Illustrator:  Iacopo Bruno 
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2009   ISBN: 978-0375858956

Every hundred years, four people have to come together to save the world using a device called the Ring of Fire. This has been the way of things for thousands of years and now, once again, it is time for the Ring of Fire to be found so that it can unleash its power. This time the four people are teenagers: Elettra from Italy, Harvey from America, Sheng from China, and Mistral, who is French. When they first meet, seemingly by chance, the four children have no idea that a great quest full of dangers lies ahead of them. All they know is that Elettra’s father overbooked the same room in his hotel, Domus Quintilla, three times. Since it is the twenty-ninth of December and all the other hotels in Rome are full, the children’s parents decide to stay in Domus Quintilla in spite of this mix-up. The children share a room, and they even start to enjoy being together.

It is only after they start to get to know one another a little that they find out something rather extraordinary. All four of them were born on the same day, February twenty-ninth. All of them were leap year babies.

For as long as she can remember, Elettra has had the ability to affect anything that runs on electricity. When she is around them, light bulbs blow up and appliances and electronics go haywire. As the young people are talking, Sheng picks up Elettra’s bedside lamp to look at it. Nothing untoward happens until Elettra touches him, which is when the power suddenly goes off. When they look out of the window, the young people see that several sections of Rome are experiencing a total blackout. Seeing that it is snowing, they decide to go outside to explore the city. The children go to Tiber Island, and as they are crossing a bridge to get to it, they meet an old man who tells them that “It’s begun.” He seems to think that the four children know what he is talking about, which they don’t. He also seems to think that someone is trying to get him, and he gives the children his briefcase, asking them to look after it. Then he runs off.

The next morning, the children find out from the newspaper that the old man whom they met on the bridge is dead. Soon after they met him someone killed him. Now they have a briefcase that they have no idea what to do with. The children decide to open the briefcase, and inside it they find three old toy tops and a wooden box that is covered with writing and images. They also find a piece of paper and a single human tooth with the letter O engraved on it.

The children have no idea what these objects are for, but they decide to try to find out. They never imagine that the contents of the briefcase have great significance, and that they are going to have adventure that is very confusing and extremely dangerous.

This is the first title in a series, and readers who enjoy mysteries and puzzles are going to find it entertaining and intriguing. The story is packed with strange coincidences, bizarre characters, and ancient clues that need to be understood and deciphered.