Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Crown of Zeus

Title: The Crown of Zeus (The Library of Athena, Book One)
Author: Christine Norris
Author's website :
Buy Link: Amazon (more links to other retailers at author's website)


Thirteen-year-old Megan Montgomery's world is falling apart. Her father's promotion means leaving her whole life in New York behind. She finds herself transplanted to a huge house in the English countryside, with no one for company but the distant staff. Her new school only adds to her misery - neither the girls nor the teachers seem to like her.

Then Megan meets three girls who actually talk to her instead of about her, and at first she thinks things are getting better. The girls seem more interested in the strange rumors that the house is haunted. Megan invites them to sleep over for the weekend. A discovery of a cryptic poem, a key and a diary written by the builder of the manoran eccentric archaeologistturns the sleepover into a treasure hunt. Clues lead the girls to believe the Parthenon holds a great secretand suddenly they find themselves sucked into one man's version of Ancient Greece. The only way home is to find an object thought to be mere legend.

If they survive that long.


“Hey!” Rachel caught Megan by the arm just before she fell into the fire. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.” Rachel pulled Megan back, and she landed on the hearth, hard.

Megan was unable to catch her breath. Her hands shook, her heart raced, her chest felt tight, and—did she smell burnt hair? “Thanks,” she said between gulps of air. Rachel sat next to her.
“I couldn’t very well let you fly face first into the fire, now, could I? What was that all about? It’s not like you to be so ungraceful.”

“One of these stones came loose, and I lost my balance.” She could breathe now, but her voice still trembled. She waved Rachel aside and scooted herself backwards to get a better look at the gray hearthstones. They were all different sizes and shapes, held together by thick mortar.

“This one.” Megan touched the offending stone. The mortar around it was thinner than the others. She curled her fingers around the edges and pulled. The stone came away.

Rachel peered over Megan’s shoulder. “Hey, look, a hole.”
There was a space beneath the stone, about ten inches deep. Rachel looked inside. “There’s something in there.” She reached into the hole and pulled out a rolled-up sheet of paper and a small book.

“What is it?” Harriet asked. She jumped down from the bed and sat on the floor next to Megan.

“Beats me.” Rachel unrolled the paper. A large brass key fell out and onto the floor with a clonk.
Megan picked it up, and the firelight painted it red and gold. She wondered what it opened.
“There’s something written inside the wrapping.” Rachel scanned the writing. “It’s a note.”

“Maybe it says what the key is for,” Claire said.

Rachel took the note to Megan’s desk and turned on the lamp. She sat in the chair and smoothed the paper on the surface. Megan looked over Rachel’s shoulder at the note. Harriet and Claire crowded around Rachel.

“What’s it say?” Claire said.

“Give me a minute,” Rachel said. “Let me read it.”

Megan chewed on her thumbnail. This was unexpected, but exciting. A secret compartment in her room! She thought about the portrait by the stairs, of the young man with the mischievous grin. It made her stomach do a flip-flop. Maybe her father had been right, and there was a secret passage, too.

“It’s a poem,” Rachel said at last.

“A poem?” Claire said. “Why would someone hide a poem?”

Harriet wore a half-hearted grin. “Maybe they were a really bad poet?”

Rachel gave her a look. “I don’t know. But listen to this.” She cleared her throat and read.

“From her father’s head
Born was she
Now she guards the door
For thee.
When night-bird falls
The way is clear
But be fair warned
There is much to fear

If still you enter and
wish to find
Sacred treasures that
Once were mine
Those tales of old
Will be your key
If unversed you are
Then trapped you will be.”

At the bottom of the page was drawn a small tree with branches extended, like a fruit tree.

“What do you suppose that means?” Harriet said.

“I haven’t the slightest.” Rachel sat back in the chair. “It’s not signed, so I don’t who wrote it. And it doesn’t say anything about what the key is for.”

“Ooo, a mystery,” Harriet said. “This is even better than my gran’s ghost story.”

“Let’s look at the book,” Megan said. Even if this all turned out to be nothing, it was something besides the same old slumber party stuff. Something for them to talk about at school on Monday.
She picked up the small, brown, leather-bound book. The cover was plain, with only the letters “G.A.” embossed in faded gold in the lower right-hand corner. On the back cover, in the center, was the same little tree as at the bottom of the poem. She flipped through the pages. Most of them were filled, all written in the same neat script. Some of the pages had detailed diagrams in addition to the writing.

Why do people hide their journals? To hide their secrets, perhaps? The thought made a chill run up her spine. She turned to the first page and read out loud.