Jon Voelkel, Author, Pamela Voelkel, Author . Smith & Kraus/Smith & Sons $17.95 (397p) ISBN 978-1-57525-561-3

A Boston teenager whose idea of adventure comes from computer gaming finds himself at the center of cosmic struggles between ancient Maya gods within the jungles of Central America, in this husband-and-wife team's first installment of the Jaguar Stones trilogy. Max Murphy's archeologist parents leave him behind, as usual, when they rush off to excavate an ancient Maya temple, and so he is surprised to be summoned to join them a week later. By the time he arrives, however, they have gone missing, and Max can tell that people are holding back the details. Despite his lifelong lack of interest, Max finally has to learn about Maya culture, especially when his parents' disappearance seems to have to do with the five “jaguar stones” used by the ancient ruler-gods and said to confer ultimate powers. This elaborate genre-bender involves ruthless smugglers; family estrangements; a helper in the form of a teenage Maya girl named Lola; two ancient Maya rulers brought to life (and given the bodies of baboons); Maya culture, past and present; zombies; and the Maya gods' eternal conflicts. That Max has somehow been chosen (presumably by the gods) to play the hero goes unresolved here, but between the exotic settings and themes and the breakneck pace, readers may not even notice the thin characterizations and motivations. A detailed appendix surveys the Maya world. Ages 11-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/17/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
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