The Emerald Ring by Dorine White
"Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus spends the last few days of summer anticipating middle school and helping her Grandma Dora around the house. Her ordinary life turns upside down when she discovers an emerald ring once belonging to Cleopatra. Touching the ring sends a lightening like zap through her system, while putting the ring upon her finger causes it to stick like glue.
Now strange things are happening to Sara. She has troubling visions, can understand animals and learns to transform herself into an Egyptain cat. However, the worst thing is the strange man that shows up in town. He is hunting for the emerald ring, and will not stop until he acquires it. With the ring stuck on her finger, Sara has no choice. She can be hunted, or become the hunter."
This book was so-so for me. It was a quick entertaining read that had a fun premise. Yet, it wasn’t everything I expected. The main character Sara spends a lot of time figuring out her powers, but mostly in a very passive way. Like by getting sick, or having dreams, or reading books in the library. I expected a little bit more action and a little less investigative mystery plot line. Though, I feel like the author did a good job in making Sara respond realistically to having developed magical powers suddenly. The author sets up the premise for a series quite nicely, but I felt like her bad guys were weak. They are a mysterious sect determined to bring back the glory of Rome by stealing Cleopatra’s magical jewels.
I was really confused by the historical context of their founding and kind of wished their motives were more clear. I am kind of a History and Latin major though so I’m probably grading the author too hard on this, but frankly the sect was one dimensional and disappointing. They started after Cleopatra died so did they work for Augustus? Were they getting the gems for him? Were they at the battle of Actium? More pointedly, I want to know how the gems influenced the battle. That’d be super interesting. Did the sect think Augustus was usurping the power of Rome and were supporters of Antony? I mean there is so much historical baggage that goes with that time period and the author didn’t do a good job of making the sect apart of that history and helping the reader understand why they were so bad and formidable. What goals did they have aside from bringing back Rome that were so horrible for the world?
I really am being too harsh. I really am but I was super disappointed that most of the information about Cleopatra was extremely general, very fictionalized, and left out huge and important parts of the historical record. I am a history snob expecting too much out of a middle grade novel, but I can’t help asking these questions of a novel that uses history as its backdrop and then completely ignores it. So, if you don’t have huge history issues like I apparently do then this book really isn’t that bad of a read.