The first in a series, Ring of Fire is built upon a fascinating premise: four children; together in one hotel; all with the same birthday – February 29. A twist of fate, or a carefully manipulated plan? Set in modern day Rome, the children (originating from China, Italy, France and the United States) meet a mysterious stranger who gives them a suitcase filled with mysterious objects and winds up murdered. Behind the scenes, adults (including the aunt of one of the children) have set a plan into motion to use the children to find the Ring of Fire. A deadly enemy is determined to stop them. The allure of this mysterious ancient treasure and fast-paced action keep the plot moving with a constant feeling of suspense.
Although the characters themselves are not remarkable, their circumstances are extraordinary with pieces of the puzzle falling together in each subsequent chapter.
Generally realistic, one character’s mysterious ability to channel electrical power conveniently facilitates many narrow escapes. Nevertheless, the relationships between the children strengthen with each step closer to the solution. A series of color insets featuring historical maps, photographs, drawings, etc. accentuate the feeling of time and place. Careful reading is required to incorporate the meaning behind the adult voices in “the beginning” and subsequent narrative “stasimon” breaks in the action of the story. Lingering questions at the end foreshadow future installments in the series. Recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy unusual mysteries with world-wide consequences and a bit of fantasy.
Author: Pierdomenico Baccalario
Publisher: Random House, 2009
Reviewer: Kristine Wildner, Holy Apostles School