Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
Husband and wife team Jon and Pamela Voelkel have created a tale set in the Central American rain forest. The story focuses on the Maya culture and traditions as the characters battle to prevent the evil forces of an ancient empire from destroying today's world.
In MIDDLEWORLD readers meet Max Murphy. His parents are archaeologists. He is sick of the old pottery and ancient artifacts that are forever causing his parents to head off to foreign countries. Max is always left in Boston to fend for himself with the help of Zia, their housekeeper. Max would like a little adventure -- as long as it involves pizza and video games. Adventure begins for Max when Zia informs him that plans have changed this time. Instead of heading off to a wilderness camp in Maine, Max is being sent to San Xavier to join his parents.
Max arrives in San Xavier only to find that Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have disappeared. Uncle Ted becomes Max's instant guardian, and the search for his parents begins. At the time of their disappearance, they were exploring an ancient Maya pyramid deep in the rain forest. All that's left is Mr. Murphy's jacket and Mrs. Murphy's earring. Max soon finds himself lost in the rain forest that may be responsible for his parents' death.
As the story unfolds, readers will learn quite a bit of Maya history. Hidden pyramids and ruins are scattered throughout the rain forest, and each holds mysterious treasures and secrets of the ancients and how they may still have powers in the modern world. The adventure is filled with crazy characters, secret passageways and hidden chambers, Maya traditions and superstitions, talking monkeys, and blood-thirsty warriors. The mysterious Jaguar Stones hold the power to change the world. The danger comes if all five are brought together. The good guys have some and the bad guys have some, and both are out to get their hands on them all.
Recommended for ages 12 and up, this is not for the faint-hearted reader. At nearly 400 pages, with additional pages devoted to information about Maya symbols and terminology, readers will be challenged as well as entertained. I predict this trilogy will be popular with fans of Anthony Horowitz, Roland Smith, and even Harry Potter fans, once they have finished book seven. Plenty of action and humor will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Reviewed by Theresa L. Stowell for TeensReadToo.com
Massimo Francis Sylvanus Murphy hates to be called by his whole name. Its much too formal, like his parents who are famous archaeologists and Harvard professors. He much prefers Max. Max is much more fitting for a fourteen-year-old who loves video games, pizza, and the drums.
Max has his summer vacation planned out; he and his parents are going to Italy to visit his grandmother. Unfortunately, his parents come home early one night and ruin his plans they are going on a dig, Max is staying home with Zia, the weird maid, and Italy is out of the question.
A week after his parents leave, however, Max finds a plane ticket next to his breakfast cereal. Zia tells him that they have told her that Max is special and she is sending him to San Xavier to meet his parents as a result. Max never does find out who they are, but hes on his way within hours.
Strangely enough though, his uncle (with whom his parents are supposed to be staying) isnt all that welcoming. He wants Max to stay out of the way while he deals with mysterious business associates and disappears into a strangely empty office for hours at a time. Uncle Ted doesnt count on the fact that Max isnt the type to avoid a challenge, and Max discovers a hidden treasure room that contains Mayan treasures. One of the treasures is the Red Jaguar of Chahk, a fabulous jewel carved into the shape of a jaguars head.
When Max spies two monkeys stealing the Red Jaguar, he sets off on an adventure to find his parents, who is turns out are missing, and the other three jaguar stones. Along the way he joins up with Lola, a Mayan girl, who has more than just a passing interest in his quest. The story takes the two on an exciting adventure through the San Xavier jungle as they seek the answers to the mysteries of the jaguar stones, Maxs parents, and the dangerous villain Count Antonio de Landa.
This is a great story for both boys and girls who enjoy a hero journey tale. Not only are the characters engaging, and the quest hair-raising, but subtle history lessons about the ancient Mayan civilization provide an extra layer of depth.