Book Six:
Circle of Fire

Details & Summary

Well this is it then! The final stage in the adventure of the Secret Breakers…the last book in the series of six!

This is the book when all the ideas that have been explored in earlier books, come together. This is the book where all the questions, finally get answered. And this is the book when all the loose ends are tied up and the mysteries that have surrounded MS 408 and all the codes included in the series are finally resolved! It seems very fitting then, that this final book should have the name Circle of Fire because I wanted very much to take the characters back to where their adventure began at Bletchley Park and for them to consider how much they have learnt and how much they have discovered.

I began each story by including a quote from another piece of work and I was very excited about the quote that kicks off the adventure in this final book.

We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time.

TS Elliot

And so in Book Six, after time in America and then far away across the Pacific Ocean, Team Veritas get to return home to Station X. But of course, there are lots of adventures and discoveries along the way so I hope you are ready for the journey!


The major code in the final episode of Secret Breakers is MS 408! Of course, Team Veritas have been working on this problem throughout the series, but in this stage of the adventure they finally get to go to Yale University and see the copy of the book for themselves! And of course, it is in Circle of Fire that they actually get to read the coded manuscript!

It was important to me, throughout the whole series, that any coding solutions I included were actually possible. And of course I had set myself a major challenge deciding to write about the translation of the most mysterious un-cracked code in the world. If you want to know more about how the ancient manuscript was read then check out the Secrets to Break page.

Smithies’ grin widened. …

… ‘Do you understand what I’m trying to say, Brodie? Have you worked out the secret of how to read MS 408?’
Brodie lifted her head. She looked around the room. They were waiting. All of them waiting, watching and longing for her to make sense of it all. And she knew then, she could. Pigafetta’s letter and the language of MS 408. She could make sense of it now.
And most importantly, if only she’d known at the very beginning, she’d always been able to.
Brodie took the facsimile of MS 408 and held it towards the light. She thought of the beginning of the whole adventure and she remembered how Van der Essen had finished his Firebird Code. ‘Handle with care.’ That phrase made her smile. Months ago, those words had only been read to help them find the right place in the Royal Pavilion. Now, the words meant so much more.
She pressed the book carefully with her fingers. It felt warm. She remembered all the times she’d held it before and longed to know what it said. This time the warmth from the book burned not just in her hands but in a place deep inside her. She knew what she should do.
She remembered how she’d felt when she’d sat with Hunter weeks before at Tandi’s grave. Adam had been with them then. He’d looked at her in a way that showed he was totally sure she could make sense of the words the manuscript contained. He’d believed in her ability to break the code and to find the castle. He’d looked at her as a child and known somehow she would do it.
And so Brodie opened the manuscript.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract

The importance of the Phoenix

The question I get asked most by readers who haven’t explored the books yet, is ‘why is there a huge Phoenix on the front cover of all the books?’ It might seem strange, I guess, if you are expecting a story about real codes and real mysteries! Secret Breakers is not a fantasy series and yet the Phoenix is an amazing bird of myth. My answer to the question is that the Phoenix is a symbol for an important idea inside the series. True, in the first book, Team Veritas have to decipher the Firebird Code. But the Phoenix is on every cover to represent much more than that!

A Phoenix is born again from the flames of destruction. The story of MS 408 was dead and buried, literally, in the dungeons of a castle. Secret Breakers is all about the fight to let the story of MS 408 live again. And it is also about lots of stories that rise again after they are supposed to be dead. That is why in Circle of Fire in particular, I explore the idea of censorship, banned stories and books that survive the fire of suppression. But of course, just like Eliot’s quote at the start of this book, our story really began there anyway, with the saving of a solitary book from the burning of Louvain Library in World War One. I love the covers of Secret Breakers…and I love the symbol of the Phoenix, which, just like a banned story, rises again from the fires of destruction!

Story survival and censorship

Censorship is when those in power decide what is read and what information is shared. Circle of Fire deals with the ideas of censorship throughout history! It is important that we fight to protect stories that need to be shared and that we uncover stories that have been suppressed and forgotten.

Visually, it is clear to see examples of story manipulation throughout history. Check out these photos which show censored photos from the past. In Circle of Fire the stories of these photos are explored.

The importance of the past

In this story, more than any of the others, Team Veritas have to confront the past and learn from previous mistakes. History is an amazing ‘place’. Our own history and that of the world we live in, can teach us so much! Hopefully, the stories in Secret Breakers prompt readers to think about lessons that can be learnt from the past.

The importance of the Firebird Code!

I loved that in the writing of Circle of Fire I was able to return Team Veritas to the beginning of their adventure and get them to think about the words of the Firebird Code which formed the basis of the plot in The Power of Three. It was great to get the Team to learn from their own history and make a decision based on what they learnt.

It was obvious no one was sure what to say. Sheldon looked blank. ‘But we’ve done it, …

… Brodie. We’ve broken the code. What more is there to do?’
‘The final line,’ said Brodie. ‘The closing words of the Firebird Code.’
The paper in Friedman’s hands flickered in the breeze. He looked down and he read. ‘Handle with care.’
‘We’ve got to teach the language of MS 408 to other people,’ Brodie said. ‘OK, we might not be able to tell them we’re teaching the language of the Voynich manuscript. We might not be able to tell them about the location of Avalon. But we can share and teach the universal language the book of Avalon contains.’
‘But how?’ Brodie could almost see Hunter’s brain whirring to make sense of her suggestion.
‘By teaching people to listen to the language of those the world rejected. By helping people see things again through the eyes of a child. By teaching them the truth that children managed to do what adults had failed. To understand the code.’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract

Locations Visited

As usual there are lots of incredible locations to visit during the reading of Circle of Fire! Don’t forget to check out the secret location once you have explored the five locations I’ve chosen to take you to! Passport at the ready!

Reveal the location here

I hope you have your passports ready because we are off to America and I am going to show you some incredible sights! Here we go!

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The building in front of them looked like a large, grey concrete box. It was a huge cuboid that …

… was floating somehow, its sides covered in smaller squares which looked like they’d been creased and folded round the edges.
‘Fifteen by five. Nice,’ said Hunter.
Brodie stared at him, hoping that whatever the explanation was for what he’d said, it would make her feel better.
‘The squares along the side. They’re arranged fifteen along and five up. It’s nice.’
‘It’s awful, that’s what it is,’ groaned Brodie, scanning the beautiful old buildings surrounding the library. ‘Where are the windows for a start?’
‘Ahh,’ said Granddad moving to stand beside her. ‘I remember reading about this when the thing was built. No windows to stop the books getting light damaged or aged. I think they wanted to use onyx originally, but they didn’t have enough. So they went for slabs of marble instead. They have to control light and humidity.’
Smithies didn’t wait for her to be reassured. ‘I think you’ll find you understand a little more about their decision when you get inside. Everything isn’t always what it seems.’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract.

Circle of Fire begins in America and I was so excited to finally take Team Veritas to the home of MS 408.

The building is amazing and inside it is filled with a soft amber light because of the sun filtering through the marble walls. It’s certainly an unusual building and the garden is even more unusual. Check out the sculpture in the photo. Every part of the structure is read by the secret breakers as a clue. I love that they see all the elements of code cracking including in the garden and that vitally, a really key element is the notion of chance. Cracking codes is about diligence and patience but sometimes luck plays a massive part too!

Check out these super short video clips that show the inside of the library and the sculpted garden!

Easter Island

The people of Rapa Nui built large stone monuments called Maoi which they put all around the island’s edge. …

… That’s what fitted with your idea about Avalon. The stone markers. Remember?’ He carried on with his explanation. ‘Each year they had a festival to choose a Bird Man for the island. Candidates were chosen to pick someone to go and collect the first sooty tern egg of the season from a nearby rock, and then swim back with it, to Easter Island. The islanders considered their Bird Men to be like Gods.’
Brodie loved the story.
‘Bird Men,’ hissed Sheldon. ‘D’you think there’s a link to the Phoenix?’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract

Team Veritas don’t visit Easter Island, but they certainly think about it in their search to find Avalon. What an amazing place it is! The statues built around the edge of the island are so impressive and there are lots of stories and myths about how they came to be there. I particularly like the story about the Birdmen and so just had to include that idea in a series which included references to the phoenix!

Easter Island is definitely on my ‘to do’ list as it would be great to see it!

Check out the video for a quick taster of Easter island!


‘16274,’ Hunter said. …

… Tusia groaned. ‘What’s he on about now?’
‘Remember Shakespeare’s memorial in Leicester Square in London. Where he held the scroll that said ‘There is no darkness but ignorance’? On the ground there were markers with distances. The statue was pointing. And directly in the line of his hand, was this marker. We talked about it. If everything’s connected, if all the clues are working together and the Knights of Neustria left us more signs, then maybe that marker’s important.’
‘You remember a distance from a marker on the ground which we saw months and months ago?’ said Sheldon.
‘Yes,’ Hunter said defensively. ‘Like B remembers stories and Toots remembers chess moves and you remember music notes. That’s what I do.’
‘OK,’ said Sheldon apologetically. ‘I get you. ‘So this marker. It had that number, right?’
Hunter nodded. ‘16274.’
‘And why are you so sure that’s important now?’
‘Because it was the number of kms from the statue to a place in the Pacific Ocean,’ explained Hunter.
Brodie felt her skin bristle with excitement. ‘Which place?’ she said.
Brodie knew she was scowling but she couldn’t help herself. ‘It’s too big a leap. You said there’s thousands of Islands in the Pacific and now you’re sure we should go to Fiji. It’s too much of a risk.’
‘It’s a good idea,’ said Granddad quietly.
‘What?’ cut in Sheldon. ‘Now you’re agreeing with him just because he remembers Shakespeare’s was stretching in the direction of a plaque for Fiji. How does that make sense?’
‘Because we’ve got to start somewhere,’ said Mr Bray. ‘And because of the name.’
‘The name?’
‘Fiji. And what it means.’
‘Go on,’ pressed Brodie.
‘Fiji means ‘Beautiful Island’. To me that sounds like a good island to start on.’

Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’ Show the full extract

I was so excited to take Team Veritas to Fiji! Careful readers of the series will have remembered that Tusia explains that her brothers live there, during her first proper conversation with Brodie in The Power of Three. Add to this the location marker on the ground in front of Shakespeare’s statue in Leicester Square, which we first encountered in Tower of the Winds, and I was setting up the chance to take my characters to this magical collection of islands! Have a look at the video clip to see if you’d like to go there!

The Phoenix Islands

Why else should we be sure these islands, …

… of all the thousands in the ocean, are the most likely to be where Avalon is?’ said Tusia. ‘What else have you got?’
‘The name,’ said Brodie.
‘Rawaki?’ said Ingham again.
‘No. The group name for the islands,’ Brodie said. ‘According to the atlas the islands changed their name in 1979.’
‘So what were the islands called before?’ Mrs Smithies said, holding her husband tightly by the hand.
‘The Phoenix Islands.’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract

It was pretty exciting to take the team to Fiji…but their ultimate destination was always going to be the Phoenix Islands. I couldn’t get over all the code links that led me there. A group of nine islands just like the map in Voynich’s Manuscript? Check! A name linked to the Phoenix Constellation which helped us solve the Dorabella Cipher in Orphan of the Flames? Check! An island flag with a bird soaring on it? Check! And finally an island named after King Arthur who owned the sword Excalibur and who visited Avalon to be restored? Check! And so it was that Team Veritas found Avalon! A perfect linking up of the circle of fire!

The Phoenix Islands are beautiful…a place of special life and beauty and one of the most pristine places on the planet. What a perfect place for the location of Avalon. But as this video explains, the islands are at risk. Sad as this fact is, I hope that the beauty and potential of the Phoenix Islands will live up their name and rise again despite the threat to their existence!

The Polish Monument at Bletchley Park

Thirteen people stood in a circle, around the monument to the Polish Cryptographers in the grounds of Station X.…

… The monument was made of stone. It was shaped like an open book. It seemed appropriate. Adam was there. He held onto Kitty and they stood in the circle with the rest of the team. The circle enclosed the monument. The open book at the centre.
Bundled up against the cold of morning, Brodie held a posy of Michelmas daisies. They were her mother’s favourites. That too, seemed appropriate.
‘You know, Michelmas is a word which celebrates the victory of the arch angel Michael over the powers of darkness,’ said Sicknote. He was wearing a suit. His hair was tidy. His shoulders square and unstooped.
Brodie took one of the flowers and she put it down gently on the monument.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Six ‘Circle of Fire.’) Show the full extract

A story entitled Circle of Fire was always going to take my characters back in a circle to where their adventure started. They were always going to return to Bletchley Park Mansion. A lot of the fun of writing the series involved thinking about the real locations, rooms and huts at Bletchley. I could really imagine my characters there. And what more fitting place for them to have their final scene than at the Polish Monument? It is a statue of a huge open book and I like to imagine the characters standing here thinking about the code crackers who have gone before them, as their own adventure at Bletchley continues into the future!

So now you have checked out several of the locations visited in Book Six make sure you check out the secret location!