Century: Book 1 The Ring of Fire
By P.D. Baccalario
Random House Children’s Books
According to legend, every 100 years mankind is tested and, in order to be saved, four children must take on the task of saving the world…
On December 29, thanks to a hotel reservation mix up, four children find themselves thrown together in one room in Rome. Elettra, the hotel owner’s daughter, Harvey from New York, Sheng from Shanghai, and Mistral from Paris. In getting to know each other, they find out they are all Leap Year babies. Suddenly, a freak blackout drowns the city in darkness and the kids decide to take the opportunity to explore.
On the streets of Rome, the kids run into a man who gives them a briefcase. Wearily, they take it back to the hotel and open it. Inside they find a series of clues that make no sense to them at first, but soon they find themselves traversing the city in search of an elusive answer, running from a dangerous hit-man, and being drawn deeper into a centuries old mystery.
This book sounded very interesting to me and I was looking forward to it. I tend to like stories where characters are searching for the unknown with a bit of the paranormal/mysterious element thrown in but this one came up short for me. I am usually very good at suspending disbelief when needed, but here I couldn’t buy that these four kids would automatically bond, roam the street of Rome, and get in that much trouble without anyone noticing. For instance, one of the kids gets kidnapped and no one notices and the other kids say nothing. I had trouble with that. Also, I found Harvey to be very unlikable and wondered why these kids would still want him around. He said no to everything, was moody, and generally mean and annoying. Yes, there is always room for the contrarian but he was the epitome and then some.
I will say this — I have been to Rome and I think the author did a good job of describing the city and it’s little quirks. There are many fantastic things in Rome that can make the imagination run wild. I wish more of that was incorporated here but the story was about these four kids and not the city. Also, it did pick up toward the end and had it’s moments. For 12 year-olds (the ages of the children in this book), I can see the draw here — to be in a big city, without parents butting in, and involved in a centuries old mystery, it could be very thrilling.
This is the first book in the Century series. Four others are planned.
This book was sent to me by Random House at my request.