See that girl, the one with the bright red hair, overstuffed backpack, and aura of grumpiness? That's Charlotte Mielswetzski. And something extra-ordinary is about to happen to her.
Oh, it's not the very cute kitten that appears out of nowhere and demands to go home with her. It's not the sudden arrival of her cousin Zee, who believes he's the cause of a mysterious sickness that has struck his friends back in England. It's not her creepy English teacher Mr. Metos, who takes his mythology lessons just a little too seriously. And it's not the white-faced, yellow-eyed men in tuxedoes, who follow Charlotte everywhere.
What's so extraordinary is not any one of these things....It's all of them. And when Charlotte's friends start to get sick one by one, Charlotte and Zee set out to find a cure. Their quest leads them to a not-so-mythical Underworld, where they face rhyme-loving Harpies, gods with personnel problems, and ghosts with a thirst for blood.
Charlotte and Zee learn that in a world overrun by Nightmares, Pain, and Death, the really dangerous character is a guy named Phil. And then they discover that the fate of every person -- living and dead -- is in their young hands.
In her dazzling debut for young readers, Anne Ursu weaves a tale of myth and adventure, danger and magic that will keep readers engrossed until the very last secret is revealed.
Ursu (Spilling Clarence, for adults) tantalizingly tells her tale, the first entry in the Cronus Chronicles, out of order, building suspense and integrating Greek mythology as she goes. In the first section (entitled "We begin in the middle") a sardonic narrator introduces 13-year-old Charlotte. The red-headed misfit begins to experience popularity when her cousin Zee arrives from London, making her cool by association. As part one concludes, students at their school start to get sick at an alarming rate; here the story jumps back six months to tell the tale of Zee, a star athlete whose beloved grandmother prophetically whispers "me-tos" to him on her deathbed. Mr. Metos, it turns out, teaches Charlotte and Zee mythology, and aids the cousins in their mission to go to Hades and stop the strange sickness plaguing the students. Underworld-born Philonecron and his Footmen are stealing children's shadows to mount an army and unseat the Lord of the Dead, and Charlotte and Zee (with his unique birthright) may be the only ones who can stop him. Readers will likely find this entertaining in the most pleasingly frenetic of ways, and the narrator's breezy sense of humor (e.g., "The Ferryman for the Dead is widely considered, in both legend and life, to be rather, well, greedy. But really, if you look at all the facts, you can't blame him. He has a family to feed") keeps the book from cracking under the weight of its Byzantine structure. Ages 8-12.