Those looking for reading material to offer readers pining for next Rick Riordan book should consider turning to the Jaguar Stone series by J & P Voelkel. The two books available thus far, Middleworld (my review) and The End of the World Club, offer a similar combination of adventure mixed with mythology--in this case, two brave kids plunged into a conflict with some of the more unpleasant deities of the Mayan pantheon...
In The End of the World Club (Egmont, December 2010, middle grade, 368 pages), Max, the son of two Mayan archaeologists who had to rescue his parents from the Lords of Death in book 1, is back home from the jungles of Central America. But to save his parents, he cut a deal with the gods...and they aren't going to let it slide. He has ten days to bring the Yellow Jaguar stone to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, or else.
The Yellow Jaguar was taken to Spain by a conquistador, so Max and Lola, the Mayan girl who was central to the events of Book 1, head off to find it, along with an ancient Mayan king and his mother, whose spirits are currently housed in the bodies of howler monkeys (sounds odd, but it works for them!). But someone else wants the stone--Ah Puku, the God of Violent and Unnatural Death, the god who's about to take control when the new celestial cycle begins next year. Not a nice god at all, and he's throwing just about everything he's got against the two kids.
From one danger to the next, Max and Lola (and the howler monkeys) ricochet around Spain, facing ghosts, murder chargers, human sacrifice, an hideously unnatural wedding (in which Lola has been cast as the bride), and much more! Fortunately, they make it through the obstacles in their way, due mainly to Lola's smarts, and the bravery of the Howler monkey royals (Max means well, and does his best, but he can't really compare to Lola).
Like Middleworld, The End of the World Club is jam packed with scary and exciting adventures. Part of the fun of the first book was watching as Max and Lola became friends under difficult circumstances; in this book, the authors try to add similar character development by introducing the first glimmerings of young love (Max is jealous of a Spanish guy who's fallen for Lola). It felt a bit forced to me. Max also got a lot more screen time in this book than Lola, which was a disappointment--I find her a much more interesting (and intelligent) character! So from a character-development point of view, I prefer the first book.
That being said, the trials and tribulations of Max and Lola's death-filled journey around Spain make for exciting reading, and I'm looking forward to the next book (especially if there's more Lola!)
(arc received for review)