cover image Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Kaela Rivera. HarperCollins, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-294755-0

Pretending to be an apprentice bruja, an unassuming preteen enters a dangerous competition to rescue her 15-year-old sister from monstrous forces in this mesmerizing middle grade fantasy. In Tierra del Sol, an isolated town plagued by magical criaturas that roam the surrounding desert, 12-year-old Cece Rios lives as “a shadow cast from the light of other people’s fires.” While her older sister Juana wields fire opal in rituals to protect the town and burns “bright like the Sun,” everyone believes a childhood encounter with a criatura cursed Cece with a soul like water—and left her “the weakest person in the village.” But when a “powerful dark criatura” known as “El Sombrerón, the Bride Stealer” snatches Juana right before her eyes, Cece must tap into her inner strength and enter a world of battles and brujas to get her sister back. With excellent pacing and rich world-building, debut author Rivera flawlessly immerses readers in the landscape of Tierra del Sol and Cece’s journey (“The town lights grew brighter, each building like a lantern warming the edges of the desert”). An enthralling, finely crafted read. Includes a glossary of Spanish words with limited pronunciations. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Serene Hakim, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Apr.) [/em]