Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review: Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows, by Ryan Calejo

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

In that split second, the spell broke: The dreamy daze instantly evaporated, and so did my crazy need to follow the lights.

What the heck was that about? I thought, looking around wildly. But I had no more than asked myself that when the answer came, and all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck prickled like the spines on a porcupine.

“Violet, STOP!” I shouted. “It’s La Luz Mala!”

I couldn’t believe what I was saying—couldn’t believe those words had actually come out of my mouth
but I knew it was true all the same. The lights were almost identical to how my abuela had described them: the wispy, glowing orbs with mesmerizing powers; the strings of tiny lights that lured unsuspecting people into the dangers of the swamp. Even the color was the same – a brilliant Spanish blue! 

It was crazy to think about
insane, evenbut this was now the fourth myth we’d encountered – the fourth in just two days! The real question was, why did we keep running into things from my abuela’s old stories?

I was excited to read Charlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows after reading comparisons of it to the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. I’ve always enjoyed myths, and figured learning myths from a culture different than mine would be interesting too.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Charlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows, by Ryan Calejo
Charlie Hernández has always been proud of his Latin American heritage. He loves the culture, the art, and especially the myths. Thanks to his abuela’s stories, Charlie possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the monsters and ghouls who have spent the last five hundred years haunting the imaginations of children all across the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Central and South America. And even though his grandmother sometimes hinted that the tales might be more than mere myth, Charlie’s always been a pragmatist. Even barely out of diapers, he knew the stories were just make-believe—nothing more than intricately woven fables meant to keep little kids from misbehaving.

But when Charlie begins to experience freaky bodily manifestations—ones all too similar to those described by his grandma in his favorite legend—he is suddenly swept up in a world where the mythical beings he’s spent his entire life hearing about seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Hispanic folklore and into his life. And even stranger, they seem to know more about him than he knows about himself.

Soon, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ancient battle between La Liga, a secret society of legendary mythological beings sworn to protect the Land of the Living, and La Mano Negra (a.k.a. the Black Hand), a cabal of evil spirits determined to rule mankind. With only the help of his lifelong crush, Violet Rey, and his grandmother’s stories to guide him, Charlie must navigate a world where monsters and brujas rule and things he couldn’t possibly imagine go bump in the night. That is, if he has any hope of discovering what’s happening to him and saving his missing parents (oh, and maybe even the world).

No pressure, muchacho.

I found this book interesting and engaging, even without knowing the myths in advance. A glossary at the back of the book was helpful when I came across a few terms and creatures with which I was unfamiliar. I also found the comparison to the Percy Jackson series helpful. The story was indeed about a student who many of the readers could relate to, who then finds himself in some interesting situations that he previously would have classified as just impossible stories.

Everyone likes to fancy themselves as the hero of a story, and Charlie was easy to identify with as an average student. The other students he interacted with were also easily recognizable from typical student stereotypes. When he stops being ‘average,’ Charlie isn’t sure who to turn to. Afraid that his best friends would just find his life changes to be weird, his lifelong crush is the one person who surprisingly seems to find it all fascinating, and has his back through the adventures. They are off and following clues after finding a mysterious map in a locket left by Charlie’s mom before she and Charlie’s dad disappeared.

At every turn, Charlie and Violet are finding themselves face to face with another myth told to Charlie by his abuela before she died. Usually it’s Charlie’s memory of the stories that helps them deal with the danger just in time.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would give it 3 out of 5 stars. It was a pleasant read, and provided information about cultural myths with which I was previously unfamiliar. It would be a great book for 11- to 14-year-olds of varying backgrounds.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a mom of two, wife, bruffus lady, and blogger at SweetlyBSquared.com.

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