Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: Middleworld by J&P Voelkel

"As I see it," said Max, "all that stands between humankind and the end of the world is two talking monkeys, a crazy archaeologist covered in red paint, and a couple of kids with blowguns. Am I right?"

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. Buy things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what's going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.

Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death? (Synopsis from Random House website)

I'm a big fan of anything involving ancient history, so when I was given the chance to read Middleworld, I couldn't say no. One of the most interesting things about this book was the plot. This wasn't your typical adventure story. The story is full of mystery and action, but it ties in a lot of interesting information about an amazing ancient culture. That was something that really set this story apart. It seemed to aim for an accurate depiction of an ancient culture, and the Maya still living in South America. I can't think of any other books that involve the Maya, which is one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much.

Another appealing aspect was the expertise of the authors, who spent years researching the story. Their website shows pictures of their travels, and their blog also talks about their trips. I really thought that their experiences made the book that much more interesting. There was information about the Maya throughout the story (including some pronunciation help), and some fun information, and a recipe, in the back of the book. Knowing that the authors spent time learning about the culture made me appreciate the way the facts were seamlessly woven into the fictional aspects of the book. I also appreciated was the way the story addressed the 2012 Maya calendar myth. You know the one, right? Supposedly, the calendar ends in December of 2012, and that predicts the end of the world. Well, not so according to Middleworld. I thought that the authors did a great job of tying that into the story as well. I personally was unaware that there was no archeological evidence that that calendar stopped in 2012.

The only issue that I had was with the character Max. For the first half of the story he was extremely whiny, and I found it hard to sympathize because of this. Over the course of the book, Max realized that he had been behaving pretty horribly, and began to change. I personally wish that these changes has started sooner, and that they had been a bit more gradual. I did enjoy his character in the second half of the story, however.

Middleworld ended with a great setup for the sequel, and I'll definitely be picking it up. For those of you who hate cliffhangers, don't worry. The authors did a great job of tying up the loose ends, and the story feels complete. It did, however, leave me wondering what would happen next. I can't give away too much, but I will say that there is definitely more to Max's story. If you're interested in learning a bit more about the Maya culture, and want an exciting read, I'd definitely suggest picking this one up.

Middleworld (The Jaguar Stones, Book One)
By J&P Voelkel
Published by EgmontUSA
415 Pages
Rating: B-

Thanks to Jenny for this one!


Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review :) I like when they blend history too :)

Nina said...

Glad to hear that Max changed in the second half of the book. It does sounds like a good adventure book, that I may even enjoy reading. The cover is great and your review too. :)

Emma said...

This sounds like a really cute book. Nice review.

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