I really like the cover for this book. The colours, the overall image just really catches my eye. This was also one of my favourite ‘psl’ when I was younger. I liked the mystical, mythological elements and the treasure hunt had a sense of urgency about it. The characters are likeable and the art is simple but effective. I particularly like the drawings of Amber the mystical princess.
The story involves a school trip to the Greek Islands. Susan Barlow is an eager scuba diver so she is looking forward to exploring. She is is not so excited when the class is allocated rooms alphabetically and she is stuck with Helen Basnet, a history geek. As school trips go its not very well organised or else the teachers are just very irresponsible! I’m guessing the protagonists are meant to be 16ish as they seem old enough to do their own thing but still be in school. At the same time they have no supervision. The teacher allocates the rooms at the start and then we don’t see any teacher again. I guess they are old enough to wander around themselves in their free time, but there doesn’t seem to be any group trips, they just bring the class to the Islands and dump them there, for all they know half the class could be sneaking drinks instead of exploring. Even some of the stuff Susan gets up to isn’t exactly safe, and yet no adult supervision!
So Susan goes off scuba diving on her own. She discovers a cave that has been revealed after an earth tremor. She comes across a bock of amber with a girl inside, and is naturally freaked out when the girl opens her eyes. She swims back to surface and rationalizes that she must be over tired. Still a bit unsure she goes back to check. The girl is still there and this time she speaks to Susan. She introduces herself as Princess Diocastelyros and tells Susan she was trapped in the Amber by enemies and the only way she can be freed is when the stars are rightly aligned and combined with certain ingredients and a spell. Susan decides to call her Amber for short which the Princess isn’t happy with and is about to be nasty about it until she realizes she needs Susan’s help.
Susan first needs to get the list of ingredients “in the place of wisdom where Apollo lies at dusk”. As she can’t figure out what it means she enlists Helen’s help by pretending it’s a treasure hunt. “Apollo lies at dusk” means sunset and “place of wisdom” is a temple dedicated to Athena. So they go to the temple and at sunset and a stone is illuminated, so Susan goes to touch it and it turns out to be booby trapped.
So this is the first time Susan is nearly killed or seriously injured. Both girls take the near death experience well and rig up some planks so they can get the scroll. Susan tells Helen about Amber but she thinks she’s just playing a joke on her, but she agrees to help anyway. Some of the ingredients seem unusual such as a “unicorn’s mane” and a “piece of Sea King’s Throne” so Susan goes to ask Amber for help. Amber calls them idiots for not knowing what the stuff is. A great way to treat people that are helping you! She plays the sympathy card of being stuck in Amber, so Susan will keep on helping her. She helps her get to the Sea King’s Throne by telling Susan where to swim up from the water. Helen meanwhile gets help from a local girl and finds out the a unicorns mane is actually a nickname for a local jellyfish. They track down the rest of the ingredients except for a black rose and a seafire ring.
Amber decides to remind Susan how important the ring is by suddenly speaking in her head. This leads to second time Susan is nearly killed because of Amber, when she is nearly hit by a car.
They find the black rose with help from the local girl, Kristina. Helen also finds the legend of Amber so she now believes Susan about her existence. Amber came from an underwater empire that was conquered by an evil sorcerer. Amber and her twin escaped and they would have both became ordinary mortals if a person helped them onto land. At the time there was only a shepherd around and he chose to help Amber’s sister, so Amber ended up getting caught and imprisoned by the sorcerer.
I really liked the legend, although Amber doesn’t seem too distressed to be caught in that picture! Amber tells Susan that her sister had the Seafire Ring and that the stars will be aligned that night. Helen and Susan go to the beach with all the other ingredients and hope inspiration will strike them about the ring. Luckily Kristina is nearby and the figure out that she is a descendant of Amber’s sister and the shepherd and that her ring is the seafire ring. So Amber is freed and Kristina accepts Amber into the family, convenient for Susan and Helen too as then they don’t have to worry about the whole adjusting Amber to modern life.
There is a lot I really liked the story; the legend of Amber, figuring out what the ingredients were, Susan and Helen becoming good friends and that Amber, because of her situation, was a sympathetic character but she could also be a haughty princess at times, so she wasn’t always nice and sweet, so a realistic character.