**4.5-stars rounded up**
Julie Kagawa never fails to completely capture my attention with her stories. Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is no exception. This Middle Grade Adventure story was an absolute blast to read!
When he was very young, Shinji Takahashi lost both of his parents in a devastating house fire. Since that time, he has lived with her Aunt Yui.
Aunt Yui and Shinji travel the world in their boat, The Good Tern, searching for rare treasures for her business. In a way, they’re real life treasure hunters. It’s an interesting life; Shinji can’t complain, even though he is a bit surly at times.
While in Africa, they visit the small village of Abenge. Shinji goes exploring while his Aunt does some work. She gives him a bit of cash, so he can pick out a treasure of his own.
In a dusty old shop, he comes across an idol that will change the course of his life. A magical object that binds itself to Shinji and tattoos the Mark of the Coatl on his arm.
Almost as soon as he has the object in his hot little hands, a pair of menacing men approach Shinji and try to get the object from him. When Shinji refuses, it looks like things may turn violent and Shinji decides to run for it.
He’s not sure what exactly he has, but obviously it’s valuable as heck because these dudes aren’t giving up.
Before he can even make sense of it, Shinji is captured and whisked away to an unknown location. Once there, he is able to befriend a girl named, Lucy. She fills him in a bit on the people behind his capture, the mysterious Hightower Corporation.
Lucy seems to be some sort of tech prodigy and Shinji likes her right away, but can he trust her?
It seems Lucy is an ally. She aids in his escape from Hightower and leads him to some people who she thinks will be able to help and protect him: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, better known as SEA.
It seems the tattoo on Shinji’s arm, the Mark of the Coatl, is actually a curse of sorts. In order to break it, Shinji must return to the source of the magic’s power and return it.
A team from SEA is assembled, made up of Oliver Ocean, Maya Griffin, Professor Carrero and Zoe Kim, participating via her drone, to help Shinji and Lucy on their quest.
Along the way, the group faces many obstacles, both natural and magical. They’re forced to face human villains, as well as creatures of legends. It’s a wild ride!
This was such a easy story to get into. Kagawa is a gifted storyteller and this one drew me in from the very start.
I loved Shinji so much. He truly embodies all of the characteristics needed in a hero. Additionally, I loved learning more about the secret organization of SEA. Hardcore Disney fans will find some Easter Eggs in this one. That made it extra fun, but really this story can be enjoyed by anyone.
The intensity builds in a nice, steady pace throughout the story, all leading to an epic showdown in the temple of the Coatl.
There were some scenes where I was biting my nails, edge-of-my-seat, praying for my favorites. Kagawa did a fantastic job of incorporating various folklore from around the world into this, as well as providing a strong message on the importance of protecting the world’s cultural artifacts.
This ended in such a great spot for the continuation of the series. I have no idea how many books are slated to be included in this series, or even if there will be multiple authors contributing. Either way, I am in for the long haul.
Bring on more SEA!!!
Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was an excellent start to another fantastic Middle Grade series!!