While working on a project translating letters from sixteenth-century Prague, high school senior Nora Kane discovers her best friend murdered with her boyfriend the apparent killer and is caught up in a dangerous web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all searching for a mysterious ancient device purported to allow direct communication with God.
Fourteen-year-old Petra, her tin spider Astrophil, and their friends become entangled in the competition for the Roma crown, then set out for Prague in hopes of finally finding a cure for Petra’s father.
Best friends Dessy and Veronica arrive in Europe with wildly different plans. Dessy hopes to heal her newly broken heart by diving into the creative writing workshop that brought the girls to Prague. Veronica’s plan, meanwhile, is to conquer as many hot-dudes as possible in one month–and help Dessy recycle her heart in the process. Her method: Dress like you are the party. Explore the terrain. (Moderate stalking is totally allowed.) Be adventurous. And that means being prepared to hide in your suitcase. Ask questions that make your hot-dude feel smart. Gloss early, gloss often, and bring bum. Because a kiss can happen when you least expect it!At first, Veronica’s plan is working so well that Dessy thinks she might be a love genius. But soon it’s clear that Operation Maneater has a few holes. Like its failure to anticipate crazy mixed signals–and worse, its mysterious tendency to plague a friendship with secrets and lies. Well, no one ever said breaking hearts was a simple craft.
The woman describes her childhood and her Aunt Anna and Uncle Billy, who lived in a wonderful mansion filled with beautiful carpets, vases, and paintings. Most special of all were four ebony elephants that she loved to played with. When World War II began, she was sent to live in Canada and, while she was gone, her aunt, uncle, and father died. After hearing the story, Annie wants to visit the old country, and her mother agrees that it is time. Annie is determined to find the elephants, but it is not until they visit a restaurant on their last night that she discovers the figurines in a glass case and hears the story of how Uncle Billy left them there for his niece to find.
Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock. Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home – blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them.
Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world.