Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Mejia, Tehlor Kay. Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
August 4th 2020 by Rick Riordan Presents

E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Paola lives with her mother in an apartment complex not far from the Gila river. The two struggle economically, with her waitress mother earning a little extra cash doing healings for neighbors. Paola chafes at her mother's superstitions, especially the one about La Llorona that keeps her away from the river. Paola has a scientific bent, and would love to research more about her environment. Her friends Dante and Emma humor her; they would rather eat candy and have fun. When Emma does not meet Dante and Paola at the river one evening, they are concerned. Emma's parents are also worried, and instruct the tweens to head to the police department to meet them. Unfortunately, the policeman they meet is very prejudiced against Latinx people, and doesn't take their concerns seriously. Since another girl, Marisa, disappeared a year previously at the river, the community worries. Paola has had some odd things happen to her, and when she and Dante decide to go looking for their friend, Dante's grandmother does something odd-- she gives them a tote bag, an old flashlight of Paola's, and her bedroom slipper to take with them, warning them to be careful. Out near the river in a field of cactus, odd things happen, and the two meet Ondina, as well as Los NiƱos deLuz. Ondina seems determined to hurt Paola, and the group of children say that they are banded together to defeat an evil force that is taking children. Marisa is there, as is a neighbor of Paola's, Sal, whose family was taken from the building. Paola at first thinks that La Llorona is the driving force behind the chupacabras, ahogados, and other supernatural creatures who are attacking because the cycle of the moon has opened a portal. Mortals will be in danger if the children cannot control the breaches. Paola doesn't have a lot of powers, but she knows that if the rift in the worlds feeds on the power of children, it must be fixed! With the help of the children, Marisa, and Dante, will she be able to find her friend Emma and close the breach?
Strengths: I loved Paola's scientific mind, and the contrast between her and her mother's beliefs in Florida water, candles, and other very unscientific forces. The nascent romance between her and Dante is very realistic. The use of Latinx culture and supernatural beliefs was very interesting; while I had heard of chupacabras, I had never heard of La Llorona.
Weaknesses: I find that most fantasy books, including those by Rick Riordan himself, tend to lag about 3/4 of the way through. In this title, Dante goes missing and must be found right around the time I was ready to have a big fight with the forces of evil and head toward the resolution. Since this occurs in so many books, it must just be my patience with the fantasy adventure arc.
What I really think: Readers who are enjoying the wide range of action adventure fantasies with cultural connections (That are not Anglo-Germanic! Finally!) like Roanhorse's Race to the Sun, Cuevas' The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, Mbalia's Tristan Strong, dasGupta's Kiranmala and other great titles will find Paola a worthy and interesting fighter against evil!
Ms. Yingling

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