Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl

Kagawa, Julie. Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl
April 5th 2022 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After a house fire killed his parents when he was a baby, Shinji has lived with his Aunt Yui, a globe trotting adventurer who is always looking for exotic products to bring back for her shop in Miami, Florida. Their latest mission finds them on the banks of the Zambezi river, and all Shinji wants to do is find an air conditioned place to play video games. His aunt sets him a quest-- take some money and buy an object that speaks to him. He grumbles, but sets off. In a small shop, he finds an idol of a serpent that the owner agrees wants to be with him. He bargains for it and sets off to meet his aunt. Unfortunately, he is beset by goons who also want the idol, and when he refuses and takes off, they chase and subdue him. He wakes up and finds that he is a prisoner of the Hightower Corporation. They really, really want the serpent, which is a Mesoamerican coatl, but it has magically been absorbed into Shinji and appears on his arm as a colorful tattoo. He meets Lucy, who says she is working for the corporation under duress. She has created a small mechanical mouse that can spy on Gideon Frost ans his workers at the corporation, and when the two realize that Shinji is in danger, Lucy uses her skills to get the two to California on a bus. There they hope to find The Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA), and get help to find Shinji's aunt and to deal with the idol. SEA tells them that the need to take the idol back to the temple from which it was stolen. This is, of course, an arduous journey, but the have traveling companions from SEA who seem to know what they are doing. Lucy has a big secret that is exposed. Once they arrive at the temple, they must fight the Weaver, a giant spider, as well as people from the Hightower Corporation who have followed them. Will Shinji be able to put everything to rights and get back to his aunt? And will he ever again be contented just playing video games?
Strengths: This was a strong middle grade entry from YA author Kagawa, whose Iron Fey (2010) series is one my students have recommended to me over the years. Shinji is a bit reluctant at first, but jumps right into the adventure. Lucy is enigmatic at first, but he somehow trusts her because she seems to know more than he does, even if the reasons for this scare him once he figures them out. SEA is a seasoned group that reminds me a bit of the 2004 movie The Librarian, and I was more than happy for the older, more seasoned adventurers to help out-- Mesoamerican jungles are not for the uninitiated! I was able to believe the magic, and the adventure is solid. I was able to remember the plot without taking too many notes, which means that my students will be able to hold onto the plot as well. I'm looking forward to another book in the series. 
Weaknesses: The cover isn't great-- it's a bit dark, and the children look rather young. Also, I would have liked more information on how to prepare for an adventure in the jungle. Having read Seiple's Death on the River of Doubt, I know that preparation is key!
What I really think: This has a feel of Gibbs' Charlie Thorne and the Lost City (2021), Vegas' Pyramid Hunters (2016) or Stokes' Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas (2016). I'm a fan of fantasy adventure books that are fast paced and weave in some culture, and this is just the ticket. 

Tsang, Katie and Kevin. Dragon City (Dragon Realm #3)
April 12th 2022 by Union Square Kids
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I loved the first book in the series, and this is a great choice for middle school libraries where dragon books area popular. I also like that fact that it's not a hugely long book, so it's a good introduction to fantasy titles. I'm still not entirely sure if this is the last book in the series; Dragon Rising is out 3/17/22 in Australia, so I guess there are more adventures to be had. I struggled with reading this one myself because it felt very video game like, but this will appeal to readers who like books like Mancusi's Dragon Ops and Dawson's Minecraft: Mob Squad. Buying for my library, but had trouble understanding! 
From the publisher:
"In an alternate reality, 5,000 years in the future, the evil Dragon of Death has become ruler of Dragon City. Humans now live to serve the dragon population and it’s no different for Billy Chan and his friends. After losing contact with their own dragons, they’re determined to track them down in this new city, even if it means putting their own lives at risk. But one dragon has turned to the dark side and has no plans to return. With the help of a new clan of dragon friends, can Billy, Dylan, Charlotte and Ling-Fei undo the Dragon of Death’s villainous work or will she triumph eternally?"

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I was not familiar with YA author,Kagawa. I'm glad she is getting into MG and this one sounds excellent (despite the dark cover). Thanks for introducing this one to me.