Sunday, June 22, 2008

A locked door and a coded message

Eleven-year-old twins Jason and Julia Covenant have just moved into Argo Manor, an enormous old house on a cliff overlooking the sea. Julia is less than enthusiastic about the move, much preferring the civilization of city life with its trendy shops, restaurants, and many things to do. But Jason is immediately enthralled with the old place, even as he quickly becomes convinced that, because of the odd houses he hears when no one else is in the house, it must be haunted.

Their parents leave for a few days, entrusting the children to the care of Nestor, the old caretaker who lives in a cottage on the premises. The twins' new friend, Rick, rides his bike up to join them, and together the three explore the house and its grounds. Climbing up the cliff stairs after a swim, Jason slips, nearly plummeting down the cliff side, but when he catches hold of a rocky part of the cliff, he discovers an old box hidden in a recess. The contents of the box lead the friends on a scavenger hunt to uncover the many secrets of Argo Manor, starting with the mysterious locked door, covered with gouges and scars.

The more they discover, the more questions are raised. The old caretaker clearly knows more than he's letting on, including exactly what Ulysses Moore, the previous owner of the house, was up to - and why the beautiful but vindictive Oblivia Newton is so determined to purchase Argo Manor for herself. The twins are very different from each other, and for the most part their differences are complementary, and Rick is a good, helpful friend who quickly proves his worth in a crisis. I enjoyed the interplay between the siblings, which conveys their affection for each other as well as their ability to drive each other crazy (and leaves Rick wishing he had a sibling of his own).

This first installment in the series sets the stage nicely, raising all kinds of intriguing questions, full of danger and excitement, and ends with a scene that is sure to have readers clamoring for the next book in the series. I enjoyed listening to the audio version of this very much - it was a gripping, well-told story with evocative music at key moments. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.

Books in the Ulysses Moore series:
1. The Door to Time
2. The Long Lost Map
3. The House of Mirrors
4. The Isle of Masks

The Door to Time (#1 in the Ulysses Moore series) by Pierdomenico Baccalario; narrated by Michael Page (Brilliance Audio, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
Fern Folio


  1. Another one that sounds like great fun :)

  2. I read this one because I saw the newest one, set in Venice, and it looks really good! But of course I had to start with the first book. :-)

  3. This sounds like a good series to introduce to my class this Fall; third graders are ALL OVER fantasy.

  4. Thanks, Darla! I'd never heard of this series...but it definitely sounds like one this family would enjoy!

  5. Bellezza - wow, that school year went fast, didn't it? It seems like we were just talking about good reads for your class, but that was LAST summer! I do think they'd enjoy this one - it's the set-up book, and I think the follow-ons detail their adventures in different countries in the past. I'll let you know how it goes!

    Debi - you are welcome! I hope your family enjoys it. It was a good audiobook - maybe fun to listen to in the car if you're taking a long drive?


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