Charlie Hernández & the Castle of Bones

. S. & S./Aladdin. (Charlie Hernández: Bk. 2). Oct. 2019. 528p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534426610.
Gr 4-8–Floridian and animal mage Charlie Hernández is back for adventures across Latin America with his friend Violet. In this second installment, Charlie’s friend Joanna, the witch queen of Toledo, has been kidnapped, and Charlie and Violet follow clues in South and Central American countries to find her. The entire catalogue of mythological creatures chase them including Brazilian lobisomem (werewolves) and the mischievous red-capped Saci Pererê, who ends up an unwilling ally on their quest. Most disturbing to Charlie are the castells, or towers of bones, that crop up, indications that an undead necromancer may seek to raise the dead and enslave the living. A dramatic battle ends this episode on a cliff-hanger. It’s never boring around Charlie. He encounters one enemy after another. Despite being the chosen morphling, Charlie stays grounded in friendship and morality, as does his super-smart friend Violet. Spanish is peppered throughout the book with subtle or direct translations, adding to Calejo’s rich cultural adventure. Calejo’s phrasing takes getting used to, as his longer sentences use numerous dependent phrases. He hits his rhythm as the action heats up, and readers will become more engaged. The adventures do seem to follow patterns—Charlie loses consciousness so often that it feels like a plot device.
VERDICT A highly recommended adventure series, though readers should be familiar with the first book before picking up this latest installment.

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