I am so excited to be talking about this book today. When I stumbled upon it on twitter, I couldn’t actually believe my eyes! A Percy Jackson* like book but with Hispanic/Latinx mythology, sign me up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*Given I have only read 25% of PJ novel (I’m working on it), I was still super excited!
That’s why I would like to send a big THANK YOU over to the Simon & Schuster CA team who sent me an ARC!
Also, take a moment to feast your eyes on the amazing cover and then read on for the review!
Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows
by Ryan Calejo
Pub Date: Oct 23, 2018 (TODAY)
Price: $23.99 CAD
The Lightning Thief meets the Story Thieves series in this middle grade fantasy inspired by Hispanic folklore, legends, and myths from the Iberian Peninsula and Central and South America.
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 won’t lie the expectations for this book were over the roof. I have never read a book with Hispanic and Latin American mythology–ever–even though I am of both. So like I needed to get on these things!! So yes, the expectations were high. Lucky for me I found it quite charming, funny, a little outrageous and very magical!
What I liked:
Charlie: He was quite the kid. He had it rough in the first couple chapters with having to deal with the emotions of his missing parents. He was a quirky kid with a big heart, no doubt. I thought his voice was incredibly well done, even though I’ve never been a 12 year old boy. He was a curious soul and he loved his family and heritage very much which is what I liked the best about him! While I don’t think he went through many dramatic character changes, I still think he learned a lot from the hectic adventures that he was put through in this book!
Violet: She was also a stellar character. She wasn’t Latina so she was new to all these myths and legends that Charlie knew so much about. I still enjoyed her very much. She was fierce and courageous. I loved her journalistic ambition and drive. For a girl so young she knew what she wanted, and knew how to get it!
It was very easy to follow, there was never any point where I was like “What the heck is goin’ on!?” Calejo draws out a nice history and prophecy for readers to follow and guess about along the way. It was interesting and led to some very fun and fast-paced scenes. I would have perhaps liked to spend just a little more time with La Liga, just to get to know them and their motives a little better. The explanation bits were kind of rushed, which I understand was to avoid stalling the story, but I don’t mind a little description.
The Mythology (What we are all here for):
Okay. So……………………..I’ll be 100% I knew like 3 legends from this book before going in. *A little me backstory* My parents didn’t really tell me any myths growing up except like one or two. It was mostly when we travelled back home to El Salvador that I would hear about these legends. The most prominent being La Siguananda (creepy as hell). I feel like I kind of missed out on a lot of these myths because I had no one to tell me, so books like these really help me get to know some of them. (In which I then go down a google search spiral for hours)
Anyways, back to the story! I thought the mythological aspects were great! There was a glossary at the back of the book which I often referred to it when new myths arrived! Every new legend had their own little spotlight and got their history spanned out! My favourites would have to be La Siguanada (since I actually knew her story and find it fascinating….now that I am older and not so scared XD) and Justo Juez because he is apparently super famous in El Salvador, but I didn’t know! (Google search will happen very soon)
Oh but there were so many! They added such fun and creepiness to the story! While some were more comic reliefs others really had major effects on the plot. Not all of the myths were fully evil or fully good. They all had a purpose to the story and I had a fantastic time learning about all these new kind of magical beings!
So well done! With so many different beings to encounter there was a lot going on and poor Charlie couldn’t catch a break sometimes! There was always another myth lined up ready to be revealed. It was a great amount of fun and the scenes were super intense, but still funny which is my favourite combo! I especially liked how the author did not shy away from hiding these supernatural phenomenons from the human world. Although, it did make it harder for Charlie to hide his manifestations and bruises from near-death experiences.
Those times when there were phrases in Spanish and I didn’t need the characters to translate for me:
It feels good.
What I Disliked:
Little things here and there. Ummmm….personally I was not the biggest fan of the flow. I mean I enjoyed the action and the direction of the story, but it felt a little choppy here and there. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I felt like there was some connection missing between certain events. Also, there was like one big twist in the book. It was a good one, but still, gimme more.
Overall, I enjoyed this book! Did it meet those super high expectations? For the most part. Frankly, I just enjoyed the fact that I was reading a book where a part of my culture was being reflected, something I have never read before. It was so interesting to read about and I’m sure many Hispanic and Latinx folks out there will find something in this book that will make them go, “Hey! I know that legend!”
I don’t know if there is going to be a sequel…but that ending sure looked like it was ready for a sequel and I am all for it!
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars (The good four)
Recommend: YES! Read all the Latinx book you can! Oh and if you have a kid (or are a kid) who loves PJ and adventure stories, give them (or yourself) a new set of myths to explore and discover 😉
Let me know what you think! Are you looking to pick this up? What myths and legends would you like to read about? Have any of you heard of any famous Hispanic/Latinx mythology?