The Storm Runner, by J.C. Cervantes – This is another book from the Rick Riordan Presents label, and there’s a definite pattern to most of these. A kid who has trouble fitting in with their peers finds out they’re the child of a god and has supernatural powers because of this, teams up with other young demigods or magical beings, and has to fight a major villain from mythology. Along the way, they encounter other mythical individuals and see how they’ve adapted to the modern world. The thing is, there are many different possible variations on the formula, so while they certainly feel familiar, they remain fun and educational. This book focuses on Mayan mythology, and while I have done a little research into that, I’m not as familiar with it as with others. I’m not entirely sure ANYONE really is, since we don’t have much besides images for some of the gods in their pantheon. Our protagonist this time is Zane Obispo, a New Mexican kid with a bad leg. I kind of thought the other kids’ merciless mocking of Zane seemed a little overly extreme; kids can be really cruel, but over something so relatively minor as having to walk with a cane? Then again, I haven’t been around too many kids recently. Zane meets a girl who can turn into a hawk, and is forced to free Ah-Puch, the former god of the dead before Ixtab took over that position. Along with Zane’s wrestling-obsessed Uncle Hondo and a giant inventor, our heroes visit the Hero Twins, now going by the names Jordan and Bird, only to find that they’re totally unhelpful jerks who overstate their own accomplishments. It ends with Zane apparently dying while fighting Ah-Puch, but there’s more to it than that, as evidenced by the fact that there’s a sequel in the works. There’s even a suggestion that Aztec mythology might come into play. One of the Mayan creator gods, Kukumatz (referred to by the shapeshifter Brooks as the god of coolness), is a feathered serpent like the Aztec Quetzalcoatl.
The Secular Wizard, by Christopher Stasheff – The fourth book in the Wizard in Rhyme series takes place largely in Latruria, the fantastic and morally simplified world’s version of Italy. The king, Boncorro, is determined to follow neither good nor evil entirely, despite the influence of his evil sorcerer chancellor. He largely takes a practical approach to governing, trying to make the country prosperous through humanism and economic policies. Matthew Mantrell, the Wizard of Merovence, travels to Latruria in disguise as a minstrel, accompanied by a young poet and a manticore. We learn more about how the history of this world differed from our own, particularly in terms of a more peaceful Roman Empire (known as the Reman Empire because Remus won out against Romulus in this universe); and there’s a visit to the Vatican and the Pope, as well as some more speculation on how magic and miracles work.
Chaos Choreography, by Seanan McGuire – The InCryptid series returns to its original protagonist, Verity Price, who is now married and devoted to being a full-time cryptozoologist. When she’s called back to compete on the ballroom dance show where she’d been a runner-up before, that part of her life returns, but cryptids still feature prominently. It turns out that the losing candidates are being murdered, and another snake cult is likely to blame. There’s a mention of how a lot of alternate universes are made up mostly of snakes, and I suspect this is the reason.
Verity is also forced into a situation where she can’t help but reveal her family’s existence to their traditional enemies, the Covenant of St. George, who want to exterminate all cryptids.
Magic for Nothing, by Seanan McGuire – Verity and Alexander’s younger sister Antimony, who has some fire magic and experience working at a carnival, is the main character this time. She goes to England to go undercover with the Covenant of St. George and find out what they’re up to, and they send her back to the United States to infiltrate a carnival suspected of harboring cryptids. These books do a good job of giving the family members distinct personalities, while also making it clear that they all come from the same background. Also, there are a few yokai here, a spider-woman and a man with monkey features. I’ve started on the follow-up, Tricks for Free, which also features Antimony, and I believe is the latest entry in the series. McGuire often posts the list of music she listens to at the end of a book (sometimes even incorporating it into the plot, apparently something writers do with increasing frequency these days), and it’s interesting that she lists the Moxy Früvous song “Fly” when she presumably wrote the book after Jian Ghomeshi was fired for beating up on women, and he sings lead on that one. On the other hand, it’s cool that she listens to some of the same stuff I do, or at least have in the past. I still like that band’s music, but I have bad associations, you know?
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