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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow coverWhen a mysterious envelope arrives for Jake Ransom, he and his older sister, Kady, are plunged into a gripping chain of events. An artifact found by their parents—on the expedition from which they never returned—leads Jake and Kady to a strange world inhabited by a peculiar mix of long-lost civilizations, a world that may hold the key to their parents’ disappearance.

But even as they enter the gate to this extraordinary place, savage grackyls soar across the sky, diving to attack. Jake’s new friends, the pretty Mayan girl Marika and the Roman Pindor, say the grackyls were created by an evil alchemist—the Skull King. And as Jake struggles to find a way home, it becomes obvious that what the Skull King wants most is Jake and Kady—dead or alive. [Jacket Flap Synopsis]

Smart and Fun, Adventure for All Ages

James Rollins, New York Times bestselling master of adventure for adults, doesn’t hold back on the thrills in this middle-grade tale that will satisfy boys and girls of all ages. With amazing aplom, Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow delivers with authentic richness, as well as with the adrenaline fun factor.

Thirteen year-old Jake Ransom is ahead of his class when it comes to science, and has a special love for archeology. So when Jake and Kady are invited an exhibit at the British Museum in honor of their parents, he’s excited and intrigued. He’s also suspicious. The logo for the company sponsoring the exhibit reminds Jake of a recent nightmare. Is it a coincidence, or not?

The large golden pyramid at the exhibit, gives Jake a hunch about the artifact that came in the mysterious package. A hunch that sends him and Kady tumbing through time to a mythical city called Calypsos. Always a scientist, Jake assesses the situation with analytic detachment.

Fifteen year-old Kady isn’t as level-headed. She’s scared and angry. But who can blame her? Almost immediately, a dinosaur—that Jake knows the name of—decides they’re its next happy meal. Luckily, a Mayan girl and a Roman boy, about their same ages (Marika and Pindor), get Jake and Kady safely inside the protected walls of their city. Once in back in civilization, Kady adapts to her new surroundings with speed and grace. Her impulsive gutsiness provides a balance to Jake’s is rational straight-ahead approach.

And they need all the help they can get…

Jake and Kady tumbled through time, bringing them closer to the evil Skull King. In order to stay alive, Jake has to discover who the Skull King is and what he really wants. The stakes are raised when Colypsos is invaded by the Skull King’s mutant monsters. For Jake and Kady to outwit the Skull King, they must combine their strengths and trust in the support of their new friends.

What I Liked Most…

This is one of those books that after reading the first line, I didn’t want to put it down. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • The characters: Jake and Kady are strong in different ways, and both have their share of flaws. I especially liked how Rollins translated Kady’s high school twirl squad skills into an adeptness at swordsmanship. The secondary characters are unique individuals, who satisfactorily round out the story.
  • The world: Rollins’ knowledge of animals and love of science shines through on every page. I learned quite a bit, without even trying. The inhabitants of this world are created from a blend of historical facts from various time periods, grounding the fantasy in believability. Likewise, the science fiction elements of the story are woven through with scientific facts that bring along a refreshing dose of authenticity.
  • The mystery: Multiple threads intertwine to shape a story that is rich in intrigue and suspense. Where are Jake and Kady’s parents? Are they still alive? Who is the Skull King and why does he want Jake and Kady? How will they ever get back home? No spoilers here. You have to read the book to find out.
  • The adventure: This is an Indiana-Jones-esque thrill ride that girls as well as boys will enjoy. The fast pace would makes this an excellent choice for a reluctant reader, as well as for those of us who thrive on adrenaline spiked escapism.

The Adventure Continues…

Jake and Kady continue their search for their parents, as the threat of the Skull King presses closer in the next installment of this adventure: Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx.

Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx cover