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Century #1: Ring of Fire

Century #1: Ring of Fire

4.4 25
by Pierdomenico Baccalario

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Every hundred years, four kids from four cities must save the world.

Rome, December 29.

A mix-up with their reservations forces Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris, and Sheng from Shanghai to share a room with the hotel owner’s daughter, Elettra. The four kids discover an amazing coincidence—they all have birthdays on February 29,


Every hundred years, four kids from four cities must save the world.

Rome, December 29.

A mix-up with their reservations forces Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris, and Sheng from Shanghai to share a room with the hotel owner’s daughter, Elettra. The four kids discover an amazing coincidence—they all have birthdays on February 29, Leap Day. That night, a strange man gives them a briefcase and asks them to take care of it until he returns. Soon afterward, the man is murdered.

The kids open the briefcase. In it they find a series of clues that take them all over Rome, through dusty libraries and dark catacombs, in search of the elusive Ring of Fire, an ancient object so powerful that legend says even a Roman emperor couldn’t control it.

In the first book of the Century quartet, Italian author P. D. Baccalario begins a mystery that will take four cities and four extraordinary kids to solve.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this first book in the Century Quartet, Baccalario offers an uneven tale of four children discovering their crucial roles in an event of global proportions. When 12-year-old Elettra's father mixes up the reservations at her family's hotel in Rome, she is forced to share her room with Harvey, Sheng and Mistral (visiting from America, China and France, respectively), who all share the same birthday. After they inadvertently cause a blackout across Rome, the new friends head out into the city, where an encounter with a doomed old man lands them a briefcase full of clues, hints about their shared destiny and the attention of Mahler, a ruthless killer armed with a magical violin. As the children crisscross Rome to unravel the puzzle, they are fed information about the secret history of the world and the momentous events that they have been chosen to be part of. The children feel underdeveloped and have basically been reduced to the role of pawns of fate and of the adults who are manipulating them, but there are some genuinely exciting moments and the premise is intriguing. Ages 10–13. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Once in every century, four children are called upon to save the world. When two boys and two girls, all 12 years old, and all born on February 29th, meet at the same hotel in Rome, what seems to be an unlikely coincidence soon takes on a more sinister aspect. A terrified man gives them a mysterious briefcase and is found brutally murdered the next morning. Ominous strangers trail them through the streets in an attempt to retrieve the map and notes hidden in the briefcase, and the children begin to manifest paranormal abilities. The suspenseful plot and action-packed pages are somewhat marred by a jumbled excess of characters and convoluted storytelling, and readers may want to invest in a map of Rome and a dictionary, but sophisticated readers who make it to the climactic ending will be clamoring for the next books in the series. A colored inset of maps, notes, and pictures is included.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
Kirkus Reviews
When four 12-year-olds, all born on February 29th, meet by coincidence in an Italian hotel, readers should expect mayhem to ensue-and they won't be disappointed. The four-Italian Elettra, American Harvey, Chinese Sheng and French Mistral-meet an obviously frightened older man who passes them a briefcase, begs them to keep it safe and hurries off, leaving the kids to chase around Rome looking for a mysterious artifact called the Ring of Fire. In this first of a planned four-book series, plot rules all and shortcuts abound. Characters rarely rise above type while genre tropes propel the story. However, the plot is masterful, with cliffhangers galore, a fair amount of violence and an ending that both satisfies and whets the appetite for more. The full-color insert bound into the center of the book is terrific: Maps, photos, drawings and reproductions set the scene and help readers to visualize the plot. Give this book to Horowitz readers and fans of Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel and prepare for another onslaught of readers. (Adventure. 11-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Century , #1
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
660L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt



Perfectly still in the darkness, twelve-year-old Elettra waits.

Her legs crossed, her hands holding the string that will set off the trap, she's sitting stock-still. As motionless as the old wardrobes lined up around her in a series of shadows, one darker than the next.

Elettra breathes slowly, silently. She ignores the dust, letting it settle on her.
Come out, come out . . . , she thinks, only moving her lips.

Shrouded in the darkness, her fingers clutching the string, she listens. The boilers hum in the distance, pumping hot water through the pipes in the hotel rooms. The meters tick away softly, each one at its own pace. A dusty silence reigns over the basement.

The hotel, the city, the whole world seems incredibly far away.
It isn't cold.

It's the twenty-ninth of December.

It's the beginning. But Elettra doesn't know that yet.

* * *

A little noise tells her the mouse is approaching. Tick-tack.

The sound of tiny paws on the floor, coming from somewhere in the darkness.
Elettra slowly raises the string with a satisfied smile, thinking, The irresistible appeal of pecorino Romano cheese.

"No one can resist pecorino Romano," her aunt Linda always says when she's cooking.

Tick-tack. And then silence. Tick-tack. Then silence once again.
The mouse sniffs the air, warily following the aroma's path.

He's almost in my trap, thinks Elettra, rubbing her thumb against the string. Then, in her mind, she asks, How long is this going to take you, stupid mouse?

She's built a simple trap: a piece of pecorino placed under a shoe box, which she's suspended from an old umbrella shaft. A single tug will make it drop down on the mouse. The only difficult thing is figuring out, in the dark, when the mouse has reached the cheese.

She needs to follow her instinct. And instinct tells her it's not time yet.

Elettra waits.

A little bit longer.
Tick-tack goes the mouse. And then silence.

Elettra loves moments like this. The very last moments of a perfect plan, when everything is about to end in triumph.

She can already imagine her father's look of admiration when he gets back from his trip in the minibus. And her aunt Linda's shrieks when Elettra shows her the mouse, stone-cold dead, held up by the tail, as is fitting for a stone-cold dead mouse.

Her other aunt, Irene, would simply say, "You shouldn't go down to play in the basement. It's a very dangerous maze down there." And then she'd add, with a flash of cunning, "No one knows where that maze leads."

Elettra hasn't come down here to play. She's on a mission to catch the mouse.
That's not playing.

Tick-tack goes the mouse.

And then . . .

Then the basement ceiling suddenly starts quaking, rattled by a series of booms that make the bottles shake in their wooden racks.

It can't be! thinks Elettra, looking up. No, not now!

But the quaking doesn't stop. The dust starts to stir restlessly. The pounding on the floor grows stronger, turning into a series of furious footsteps accompanied by a voice that grows louder. In the end, it sounds like a siren.

"EEELEEEEEETTRAAAAAA!" the siren howls, throwing open the door to the basement.
A flood of light drenches the stairs, the stacked-up furniture, the bottles of wine, the wardrobes and the statues. Elettra's eyes dart straight out in front of her. The little gray mouse is standing there, on its hind legs, barely a centimeter inside the shoebox.

"You're not getting away from me!" she says, tugging the string.

The box falls, but not on the mouse.

"No!" she cries.

At the top of the stairs, Aunt Linda's hand gropes around for the light switches and flicks them all on. A dozen bulbs blink on, their blinding light driving away all traces of darkness. They're hanging from the ceiling inside round lampshades made out of old bottles.

"Elettra! Were you in the dark?"

"Darn it!" she shouts, jumping to her feet. "He got away again!"

"Who got away?" her aunt asks, baffled.
Elettra glares at her threateningly, the umbrella shaft in her hand. "What do you want now?"

At the top of the stairs, her aunt looks around at the basement as if she were seeing it for the first time. "Oh, what a mess!" she grumbles. "One of these days your father and I will just have to come tidy it all up. It's just not possible, I tell you, to have a basement in this condition!"

It's as though she has completely forgotten the reason she came down in the first place.

Looking at her, Elettra feels anger blazing up inside. Her aunt gracefully runs her hand over her thick gray hair, without understanding the damage she's done. The shoe box is lying on the floor, useless, and the vast stone basement is hiding a mouse who's still in perfectly good health. The whole maze of hallways and rooms packed with things now looks dingy in the harsh light of the bulbs.

"What do you want, Aunt Linda?" Elettra shouts a second time. And then, as the woman makes no sign of replying, she adds, "Aunt Linda!"

Her aunt stares at her with her big, clear eyes. "Elettra, dear," she says, perfectly calm. "Your father called from the airport. He says there's a problem with the rooms.
A serious problem."

"What's wrong?"

"He didn't want to tell me."

"So where is he now?"

Aunt Linda smiles. "At the airport, naturally."

* * *

Fernando Melodia snaps his cell phone shut. The recorded voice of an operator has just informed him that he's out of credit.

"Oh, no," he groans beneath his perfectly trimmed mustache. "Now what do I do?"
Beside him are the Millers, an American couple with an angry-looking boy. They're standing tranquilly beside the sign for terminal A, watching over a pile of giant suitcases.

They're shorter than their son, a lean, tall beanpole with messy hair who's looking around as if he were expecting to be taken away and hanged. Maybe he's embarrassed about how his parents are dressed: an otter-gray checked jacket and polka-dot bow tie for him, a khaki-colored suit for her.

There they are, the Millers. They've arrived. They're pleased.

They've reserved the hotel's last available room to spend New Year's in Rome. The professor's also here to attend an important convention on the climate. His wife is clearly the type who loves shopping sprees. Their son, on the other hand, seems to have been dragged here against his will.
Fernando sighs.

So that he can be recognized as the owner of the hotel, tucked under his arm is a sign on which he's written:

domus quintilia

That was Elettra's idea. An excellent idea, although for a few long moments, Fernando had regretted bringing it. He'd simply held it up and the Millers had walked right over to him, smiling. The two adults, at least.


"It was so kind of you to come get us," Mr. Miller had thanked him, leaving behind his pile of luggage carts for a moment.

Fernando returned a sheepish smile and from that point on, that smile hasn't left his face for a moment.

A smile in which he'd gladly bury himself.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

P. D. Baccalario was born in Acqui Terme, a beautiful little town in Piedmont, Italy. He now lives in Milan.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Ring of Fire (Century Series #1) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
"Century, The Ring of Fire," is an excellent book for young adults. The author, Pierdomenico Baccalario, a native of Italy, sets this treasure hunt in Rome. His searchers are an international quartet of preteens, all born on February 29. They are drawn together by unknown forces to find the mysterious Ring of Fire. The book blends the right amount of fantasy and reality to keep the reader enthralled. It is impossible to read slowly through the book, as the action and mystery draw you enticingly from page to page. I found the photographs and illustrations, which were exquisitely done, to be very helpful in following the trail of the kids around Rome. The only regret is that we will have to wait for the following books, as this is the first of four parts.
80smusicfan More than 1 year ago
This book was all-around great read. There is always a suspense of mystery of what will come next. It doesnt heat up immediately, but you wont have to wait long for the action. This book will probably have you thinking oh I have read about that, or who was that guy again, I read his name somewhere.It isnt action packed, but it doesn't lack much either. It isn't really a hard read, so anyone who has read a 200 pager should finish it with minor difficulty. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a mystery book type. Not who done it, more like what is all this about and how does it fit together. Great book for any libary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this series too many times to count. It has everything. Romance, action, mystery. Its a perfect series. I love it to death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you liked books by Michael Scott then you will love this fantasy/mystery/adventure story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. Definetly not a book u would want to put down. I cant wait for the next book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't read this ebook version, I listened to an audiobook recording, great story you won't want to put it down, for sure!
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John Means More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic get it now
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Diane Pine More than 1 year ago
This was just giving you imformation of what happened before and what happened to these four kids. Hope you like it.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
The week of New Year's Eve in Rome is crazy, but this year, it's even crazier. Elettra's father accidentally overbooks a hotel room - three times over. On December 29th, three families show up expecting a room. Now, Elettra and her family are struggling to find space for their guests. Three teens end up all bunking together with Elettra, where they discover they have something in common. Their birthdays all fall on the same day - a day that rarely appears on the calendar, February 29th. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. When the lights go out all over the city one night, the four decide to take a walk. They end up on a bridge with a man who's frightened for his life. He gives them a briefcase and begs them to hold on to it for him. He doesn't show up to reclaim it the next day, and they soon read about his death in the newspaper. The teens decide to look inside the briefcase and discover some very strange objects. Elettra's curiosity gets the better of her, and she follows the first clue to an old café in Rome. At the café, they find another clue pointing them to a research library. At the library, they encounter some friction, and they must make a choice: Should they continue their search and attempt to uncover the secrets behind the Ring of Fire? They're not sure who to trust, but they know that somewhere, someone wants the briefcase they hold - and maybe them, as well. Readers will be drawn in to watch the main characters solve multiple puzzles from which they hope to uncover an ancient and powerful object. A great read!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book. It was hard to understand and it had tons of bad words.