“The River of No Return (Jaguar Stones #3)” by Jon Voelkel, Pamela Voelkel
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Summary from Goodreads:
A hurricane is brewing in the jungles of the Maya, and the ancient Death Lords are on the warpath. Across the world in Venice, Italy, hanging out with his blogger friend Nasty (Anastasia) Smith-Jones and eating Pizza Gelato, Max Murphy thinks he is safe from their clutches. But when a rogue octopus pulls him off his gondola and tries to drag him down to the underworld, Max realizes that the Death Lords have not finished with him yet.
Soon Max is back in Central America and reunited with the only ones who can help him in his battle–Lola, the mysterious Maya girl, and the howler monkeys Lord 6-Dog and Lady Coco. Once again it’s up to the four of them to save the world as they fight off mutant cave spiders, zombie warriors, and, of course, the twelve villainous Death Lords. With the hurricane about to hit land, Max and Lola embark on a one-way journey to danger down the blighted Monkey River. They take shelter in a subterranean hotel, only to stumble upon Death Lord central. Torn between rescuing themselves and rescuing one of the last wild jaguars of the Monkey River region, Max and Lola find themselves drawn into an ever more bizarre series of tests, culminating in a terrifying ballgame that they can never win.
This story felt a bit like a step back for Max’s character. The series had him start out as selfish and oblivious but over the course of the past two books he has grown up. Sure he’s still juvenile because he’s still a young teen but there was growth. This book felt like all that growth just disappeared. He spent a huge portion of the book completely oblivious to the fact that the hotel was a trap. I’d like to think that after everything he’s been through he would be smart enough to recognize a trap or at least know to listen to Lola who was constantly warning him that it was a trap.
It’s starting to feel like the series is being stretched for no reason. Of course the Death Lords are still out to get Max and Lola and try to destroy the world. That part of the story is getting a bit old. We’ve explored that storyline in the other books. I was kind of hoping the authors would incorporate other aspects of Mayan mythology into the series. They have a great opportunity to introduce kids to a very different mythology. Why not take advantage of it? We did get to learn more about the Hero Twins myth in this story so that was cool.
These book are fun to read but I’m really starting to think they might be a bit juvenile for the older readers. There was definitely some humor in there just for the kids that could have been left out. I’m sure kids love it but as an adult I didn’t like it. Just a heads up for the older readers out there.
The bottom line? A fun, fluffy read but not very filling.