Kaela Rivera: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls (Harpercollins Publishers 2021)
In the old days, humans – the children of the Sun – and spirit beings (criaturas) – the children of the Mother Desert, lived side by side in peace. Until the appearance of the bruja, the witches who steal the souls of spirit beings to control them and gain power. Revenge against the humans created the dark creaturas whom the people are fighting against, so the circle is complete. However, Cece is able to see the creaturas differently: she considers them to be persons who are determined not by their fate but by their actions. That’s why other people find her weak. And being weak in Tierra del Sol is not ill-advised, especially in the months when criaturas emerge from Devil’s Alley.
Our story begins with the night, when Cece’s fearless sister is abducted by El Sombrerón – the man with the big hat who lures away beautiful young girls with his guitar playing – and takes him to Devil’s Alley, from where no one had returned. However, Cece does not give up: to save her beloved sister, she is also willing to become a bruja. Along the way, the legendary creatura, Coyote helps her.
The book has a wonderful atmosphere. Mexican legends come to life as we learn not only about Cece’s lovely nature, but also the true history of the creaturas. It was also said in a blurb that the story is similar to Pokémon, which surprised me at first, but the duel of the brujas were indeed analogous, and the anime characteristics also turned up by the lengthening of the important scenes. The author was primarily inspired by her grandfather’s tales about what it was like to grow up in northern Mexico. In addition to Hayao Miyazaki’s Chihiro (Spirited Away), Cece’s character was also inspired by the author’s and her mother’s own experiences, as they were often seen weak for their emotional nature. The main point of the story is to always listen to our hearts and not be afraid to trust others, and what Franklin D. Roosevelt has already said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
The sequel to the book will be published this September. I received an e-arc from the author, and you will soon be able to read about it on BogiWrites.
To learn more about the author and her books, you can visit her website at https://www.kaelarivera.com/.