A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Stories and gods featured from both Maya and Aztec mythology. A short glossary helps with both identification and pronunciation of the longer tongue-twister names like Chalchiuhtlicue. A visit to Actun Tunichil Mknal, a cave in Belize filled with Maya artifacts, and details about quick trips to Hollywood (especially Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum), the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas, and Boring, Oregon (with an explanation of how it got its thrilling name). Mentions of the Spanish conquistador Cortes and that very difficult chapter in Latin American history. Some Spanish words mixed with English that kids may have to look up.
Stresses the importance of friendship and teamwork. Focusing on what matters, like connections and loyalty to friends, brings light in dark moments. Anxiety is tackled with meditation and deep breathing, and it's not stigmatized.
Positive Role Models
Ren, the main character, always chooses brain over brawn when she can. She's worried that as a leader she's too naive, always hoping that even her enemies' motivations are positive underneath. She's conflicted about her power, which has a dark side that wants to take over. She usually succeeds in fighting it and is willing to make any sacrifice to make sure the dark forces don't win.
Ren -- Renata Santiago – lives in Texas and has Latin American roots. Her mother is Pacific, the Maya goddess of time. She lives with and speaks a mix of Spanish and English with her abuelo/grandfather. Other characters are Latin American living in the U.S., either of Maya or Aztec god ancestry, and speak some Spanish.
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Violence & Scariness
Two major characters are thought killed, one with an arrow to the heart and one from lethal magic bee stings. Other characters are stung and healed. Fights with mythological beasts with some injuries and little detail -- they just disappear when they die. Often magic is used to stun or harness enemies instead of kill them. Scares in a realm full of ghosts where the danger is being trapped for eternity and drained of all magic power. Talk of sacrifices to the gods in the olden days and that the main character's dad died six years before.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Minor talk of crushes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that J.C. Cervantes' The Lords of Night: A Shadow Bruja Novel, Book 1, is the first book in a duology featuring some characters from The Storm Runner trilogy, including Renata Santiago -- Ren for short -- who lives with her abuelo/grandfather in Texas and has a Maya goddess for a mother. Other characters are also associated with Maya and Aztec gods, and some Spanish is spoken among them. It helps to read the trilogy first, but if you read the first few chapters of this book extra carefully, you can keep up. There's a short glossary in the back that mostly covers the gods (and thankfully, the pronunciation of some of the tougher ones like Chalchiuhtlicue). Two major characters are thought killed, one with an arrow to the heart and one from lethal magic bee stings. Other characters are stung and healed. Fights with mythological beasts result in some injuries and have little detail -- the creatures just disappear when they die. Often magic is used to stun or harness enemies instead of kill them. Most of the scares happen in a realm full of ghosts where the danger is being trapped for eternity and drained of all magic power. Ren worries that the darker side of her magic will turn her against her friends, but still always puts them first.
Is It Any Good?
Exciting magical powers and intriguing characters anchor this quest tale that just doesn't dig deep enough into its fascinating story. The Lords of Night could have used more of everything, starting with more time to get to know the main characters as a team. How do all their powers work? How do they work together? Just when they're establishing a sweet rapport the quest drives them apart. Every scene with them hanging out and training could have been longer. Every curious clue about the Lords of Night deserved more time for the characters to digest it. What makes the lords villains? How are they connected to the five rogue godborns and to Ah-Puch, the Maya god of death? This is barely touched on.
Every nail-biting action scene should have been longer as well, and should have been set up much more clearly. The best example of this is when Ren and her team visit the ghost-filled market. This had so much potential to scare the pants off readers. Instead of really being able to feel the danger, the tensest moments are hurried, and overall, it's really hard to visualize this grim, enchanted place. The action at the very end is rushed through as well, so readers may feel more confused than shocked at the cliffhanger. Here's hoping the sequel of this duology has more detailed storytelling and less confusion. And more shadow magic as well. It's pretty cool.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.