Category Archives: Book Review: Mythology

Review of “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree”

 
The Jaguar and the Cacao Treejagurar and cacoa
By Birgitte Rasine
Published by LUCITA Publishing
332 pages

I was asked to review this upcoming book, which will be published in March 2016. This was a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot. The book is about two kids, Max and Itzel, and their adventures in the jungles of Guatemala. It is also about Mayan life and mythology where the legends actually come to life!

Max is eleven year old boy who gets to travel the world. His father is a bee researcher whose job takes him to exotic places and his mother is a science writer who helps Max’s father. The book begins when Max’s family goes to Guatemala to research a unique type of bee. There, they stay with a small Mayan village, near the jungle, where Max meets a young Mayan girl names Itzel. Itzel teaches Max about the ancient Mayan culture and traditions and together, they have numerous adventures in the jungle. For example, they encounter serpents and jaguars, and re-home honeybees.

The biggest adventure they have is when, one night, Itzel takes Max to a sacred cacao tree where, during the full moon, the Mayan elders perform a ritual with the cacao pods. But when Max and Itzel realize it’s not the night of the full moon, they have to hurry back to the village before they are discovered missing and near the sacred tree, where they are not allowed. As they are leaving, they discover several of the sacred cacao pods had fallen off the tree. When they open the pods, they accidentally release the sacred pollen inside and find themselves in deep trouble with one of the Mayan mythological deities.

This book taught me a lot about the Mayan ways. For example, Itzel explains that naguals are “spirit guides.” In the book, Max actually meets his nagual, a hummingbird called Luna, who becomes an important character in the story. But I especially loved learning that chocolate is a part of Mayan history, including a special hot chocolate recipe that was passed down from an ancient Mayan lord.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author provided many small adventures and then one big one at the end. Most other books I’ve read only have one main adventure. I also liked the way the little adventures built up to the key adventure. This made the book more interesting and exciting.

Also, there are parts in the book where the characters speak Spanish, and the author provides the translation underneath. I think the way Spanish is used in the book makes the characters more realistic, since that is the language that is spoken in Guatemala. I also think it’s fun to learn a little Spanish.

This is a great adventure book for kids ages 9-13.

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Review of “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer”

 
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summermag chase
By Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Pages 512

This is another amazing book by the New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan. He wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles series, as well as Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Heroes. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians books have even been made into movies. I previously reviewed The Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods.

The story begins with Magnus, a 16-year-old homeless boy living on the streets after giant wolves kill his mother. He has uncles, but his mom told him not to associate with them, especially his uncle Randolph. One day he learned that Rudolph and his cousin Annabeth are looking for him. He soon finds himself in Randolph’s mansion where his uncle rambles on about Norse gods and mythology. He tells Magnus about how monsters are stirring for Ragnarok, the Norse version of doomsday, and that to stop Ragnarok from occurring, Magnus must find a special weapon that has been lost for years. Why Magnus? Well, its because the weapon is the sword of Frey, God of summer and rain, and Magnus is Frey’s son!

I really like the characters in this book. Sam, one of the main characters, is the intelligent one who provides information on myths to help Magnus and his friends on their quest. She’s also somewhat of a tomboy and is really good at combat. At one point in the story, they go to the mythological world where their dwarf-friend, Blitzen, lives. Dwarves live in dark places because light turns them to stone. They are also natural blacksmiths and everything they make is one of a kind. I think its especially neat that dwarves believe that if something is good enough to be made it is good enough to have a name.

As for Magnus Chase, he is a lot like the famous Percy Jackson most kids know. They are both sarcastic and brave, both teenaged demigods, and most of all, they both have to save the world. But, they are also quite different. Percy’s story begins when he is 12, but Magnus’s story begins when Magnus is 16. Percy has inborn water-related powers, while Magnus doesn’t have any powers at birth. But Magnus develops special fighting powers after he dies. Yes, he dies early in the book, but that’s part of the plot.

The plot in the story is similar to the one in Percy Jackson. They both have the main characters traveling around the globe and into the mythological worlds to find magical objects that will help them save something or someone from obliteration. And they both have side adventures where they have to go on missions to find these things for those who can help them on their main quest.

I think its pretty cool that all of the Rick Riordan mythology books take place in the same mortal world. In fact, although the characters in the books don’t always know that there are other groups of gods and different mythologies, they co-exist in Riordan’s books. Riordan even wrote short side stories about Percy and Annabeth meeting with Carter and Sadie, from the Kane Chronicles; the ancient Greeks and Romans actually know about each other in Riordan’s main books; and Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson’s stories, is actually Magnus’s cousin and a rather important character in this story.

I think kids, especially boys, ages 9-13 will like this book, as well as anyone who liked the other Rick Riordan books. And, if you want more information about Norse mythology, you can go to this website.

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Review of “The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave”

 
The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave
By Brydie Walker Bainsinbads seceret
Published through Smashwords
Pages 176

This is another book that I was invited to review by the author. It is about a group of friends that go on an exciting treasure hunt. It begins when Nat Sheppard, the main character, hears that her father has to sell the old family farm because it is losing money. But soon after, Nat discovers there may be a way to save the farm when she and her siblings, Jack and Kathleen, discover a secret room in their attic.  In the room, they find a chest with an old letter from Rewi Te Kaitiaki, their great-great grandfather, to Natalia, their great-great grandmother. The letter contains mysterious maps and a copy of the book “Sinbad the Sailor”.  Along with their friends, Riki, Abraham, Elijah, and Barnaby, they soon are on a treasure hunt in nearby caves searching for jewels. But they aren’t the only ones chasing the gems. A group of people, led by Cain Wylie, will destroy anything that gets in their way of getting the treasure.

The story is a great adventure, full of mysteries and surprises. Once, Nat barely dodges a bullet (literally) from Cain Wylie! And there is a part where Kathleen goes missing and Nat finds her in a magical, hidden grotto. Yes, there is even some magic in this story.

The story is set in New Zealand and the Māori culture is a pretty important part of the book.  The Māori are an ancient culture native to New Zealand. Two of the main characters, Riki and Abraham Te Kaitiaki, are decedents from the Māori tribe, and part of the treasure hunt includes legends from the Māori culture. It was interesting to learn a bit about the Māori through this book.

One of my favorite characters is Riki. She is always up for adventure and excitement. She is also smart and responsible. She always seems to know what to say or do. In one part of the book, she and her uncle Abraham even do some sort of Māori magic when they are being chased by Cain Wylie’s men. The magic raised Māori ghosts that made Cain Wylie’s crew run away screaming.

Although this is really a great book, there are a few small gaps in the story. Cain Wylie and his crew knew about the treasure, but it is not clear how they learned about it. They practically just show up out of the blues chasing the treasure. There is also a part in the book where Abraham explains why the treasure is called Sinbad’s Treasure, but his explanation is not clear. In particular, I’m not sure why people left the treasure chests as an offering to Sinbad. Was he considered a god? Although the gaps don’t hurt the story, I would still like to know the answers.

Overall, I think this is a great book. My 11 year-old brother wouldn’t like it because it has some “girl power”, so I think it’s more for girls ages 10-13.

By the way, a digital version of this book is free at Smashwords and other major book sellers. Also, this is the first book in “The Natnat Adventures.” The second book, “The Ship of Sight and The Hand of Shadow,” just came out.

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Review of “Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods”

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods
By Rick Riordan
Illustrated by John Rocco
Published by Disney Hyperion
Pages 336

This is another great book by Rick Riordan. Rick Riordan is an awesome author that lots of kids (and probably some adults) today are fans of. He wrote the Percy Jackson series, Kane Chronicles trilogy (which I reviewed the Red Pyramid here), and the Heroes of Olympus series. This book, however, is different from all of the other ones he wrote because it is not a story about kids who go on mythological quest. Actually, it’s not an adventure book at all. It’s all about Greek myths, gods, and titans.

In this book Percy tells the reader about different stories based on Greek mythology. These are stories that have been passed down for thousands of years, first by ancient Greek priests, and today by authors like Rick Riordan. Riordan, however, wrote this book as if a local publisher in New York, where Percy lives, had asked Percy to write the book.

For those who don’t know, titans and gods are both magical beings with special powers. For example, the goddess Aphrodite can make people fall in love, the god Poseidon (who is actually Percy’s dad) can control water and the oceans, and the titan Kronos can stop and speed up time. Gods, however, are different from Titans because gods are smaller but more powerful.

The book begins with Percy telling the story of how the Earth was created. This is not my favorite story because it is kind of boring. There’s not much to it. I like the next one about how Kronos killed his dad, because it is more exiting. The next few stories are about the titans and how the titan Reah gave birth to the first gods, and how Zeus overthrows Kronos. Then Percy even gives you his version about what he thinks about the gods, and some of the gods up close and their stories. I like his opinions because he tells the stories with a lot of humor.

If you get the hard cover version of the book, and I suggest you do, it is the size of a coffee table book, and has lot of beautiful pictures of gods and titans. One of my favorite illustrations is baby Hermes stealing the cows because the illustrator makes baby Hermes look cute and, silly. It is also one of my favorite stories in the book because it may be the funniest of all. Another one of my favorite stories is when Apollo was born, because he was very demanding right from the start. For example, right after he was born he ordered the other gods to immediately get him a bow and arrow and a musical instrument. But he was still a baby!

Over all, I think this is a book for anyone who loves Percy Jackson, especially kids ages 9-12, but older kids and some adults might also like it. If you don’t know Percy Jackson, but you like Greek mythology, you might like the book, but you might not get all of the humor.

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Review of “Magic: The Crest”

 
Magic: The Crest
By: Rena Marthaler
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platformmagic the crest
Pages: 128

This book was written by Rena Marthaler in 2013 when she was nine years old. YES, NINE YEARS OLD! (Wow, I want to do that!) She wrote the book as part of the NaNoWriMo, which is an online competition to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  Pretty amazing! You can find more information on Rena on her blog and her website.

This book is about Rachel and her fifth grade friends and how they use their magical powers. The adventure begins when Rachel and her friends are outside at recess and a dragon suddenly fly’s out of the sky.  Rachel and her friends find themselves fighting their first enemy. Soon after, Rachel begins to get prophecies and the group starts off on different magical quest around the world.  During their quests, they fight creatures, some that come from Greek mythology. On one quest they even leave Earth behind and go to a magical realm called “Central universe”. On the way, they also befriend two dragons and magical animals, including a fire cat and a puppy that can turn into a wolf pup.

The book is very fast paced – Rachel and her friends fight dragons by page 4! I also really like the different places in “Central universe” that Rena came up with and that all of the enemies come from Greek mythology. There are times where the girls stop to rest, and they are hungry and all they want to eat is pizza. I can really relate to that because I love pizza!

Rena is now working on the sequel to this book. As she develops it, I would suggest a couple of ideas that I think would make the story more interesting and exciting. First, I want to be just like Rachel and her friends. But I don’t know very much about them. It would be great to learn more about who they are and about their backgrounds. I also think that the girls discovered their magical powers too suddenly and too early in the story. I think it would have been more exiting if they had slowly learned about their power as the story went on. I know that you can’t undo that since the girls already know about their powers. But, maybe they could now learn something new about their power – for example, a new and more powerful way to use their powers.

Over all I like the book and I think girls aged 7-10 will enjoy this book.

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Review of “The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid”

 
The Kane Chronicles, book one: The Red Pyramid
The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid
By Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages 544

Carter and Sadie Kane are two kids who need to save the world from an evil Egyptian god. Sounds exciting? It is! This book is kind of an Egyptian mythology version of Percy Jackson; after all, they are both written by the same author!

The story starts when Carter and Sadie’s dad takes them to an Egyptian museum. At the museum he accidentally blows up the Rosetta Stone and releases five Egyptian gods from the duat (a kind of parallel universe). One of those gods happens to be Set, the god of evil who plans to destroy civilization. Sometime during the commotion, Set sucks their father into the floor, and that’s when Carter and Sadie’s lives get really interesting.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you – when the story begins Sadie is living in London with her grandparents, while Carter travels the world with their father. Why is this important? Imagine trying to save the world with someone who you don’t really know and only see for the holidays. But that’s just what Carter and Sadie have to do – get along and save the world. Even though I see my brother every day, I don’t think we could save the world together – he never listens to me!

Carter and Sadie don’t always get along either. But they do enough to realize that they have to do something, especially when their dad disappears. After they go back to their grandparent’s house and find their long lost uncle Amos at the door, Amos tells them that they are actually quite powerful magicians and only they can destroy Set. How is that for excitement?

Although the book is somewhat similar to the Percy Jackson books, it is not quite the same. Rick Riordan gives us a totally new plot with new characters. Also, in the Percy Jackson series, the main characters are children of the gods, while in this series, the characters are magicians who know how to summon the gods.

One of my favorite characters is Zia, a magician from the 1st nome (nomes are like schools for magic). I think she’s really smart. But she’s also unique and mysterious. And she isn’t easily frightened or freaked out.

This book is the first in the Kane Chronicles trilogy. Anyone aged 9-13 (including boys) who liked the Percy Jackson books should like this series.

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