Max and Lola, the teens who teamed up in Middleworld, the first book in the Jaguar Stones series, are back. In the previous book, Max made a deal with the ancient Mayan lords of death, which didn't seem like a great idea at the time, but it was the only way he could think of to save his parents from a truly horrible fate. Now it is time to pay up, and now Max is in the unenviable position of having to perform an action that could, in fact, end the world as we know it. Perhaps all the hype about the Mayan calender predicting the end of the world isn't too far off base.
At first Max believes he must head back to Central America - but it turns out the lost yellow Jaguar Stone is in Spain. He meets up with Lola there, along with the reincarnated Mayan Lord 6-Dog and Lady Coco (still inhabiting the bodies of Lola's pet howler monkeys), and they are off on an adventure that includes lost pyramids, underground crypts, headless phantoms, slavering hellhounds, and journey to the Mayan underworld. If Max delivers the yellow stone, it will mean the end of the world - but if he doesn't, it's the end of the line for Max and his parents.
There are a lot of elements in this novel that are sure to appeal to young readers. There's over-the-top action and adventure, plenty of bodily function humor, creepy villains, and an unforgettable setting. The fantasy elements are surprising, creative and often surreal.
As with the first book, I did have some problems with the characters. There is zero character development here, and Max just isn't terribly interesting. He's kind of sweet, but he just doesn't seem to be very bright. He's awfully gullible, and he is buffeted around by events, always reacting, never really taking any sort of initiative. Lola is by far my favorite character. She is bright and brave, and in the end she is the one who figures things out and saves the day - even though Max is supposed to be the main character. And sadly, there wasn't nearly as much Lola in this book as I would have liked.
This is one of those books that almost hits it. If the characters were more complex, and the plot more streamlined and less episodic and meandering, it would be just right. There are lots of things that work, and frankly, I am probably much more critical than the book's intended audience. In fact, my daughter's friend adored the first book, which I passed on to her once I'd finished, and she's waiting anxiously for this one. I'll be interested to hear what she thinks. There are enough interesting and intriguing elements to make me curious to see how things go in the next book of the series.
Source: Uncorrected proof received from publisher
Books in the Jaguar Stones series:
2. The End of the World Club
The End of the World Club (#2 in the Jaguar Stones series) by J & P Voelkel (Egmont, 2022)
Also reviewed at:
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog: "...it was made clear in this book that Max is the true hero and Lola is just the woman behind him. Really? Why can’t Lola play a bigger part? Even the baddies got more screen time than Lola did!"
Charlotte's Library: "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!"
One Librarian's Book Reviews: "Still, I think kids will love the action and the disturbingly gross Mayan gods, without being bothered by some of these other things."