JAGUAR STONES SERIES
by J & P Voelkel
Book 1: MIDDLEWORLD
Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.
Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!
One of the things I noticed immediately about this series is how well the authors presented the setting. In a story like this the setting plays a very important role, especially when the fantastical merges with the real world. (See below for an article about how this setting was created). I'm also fascinated by the study of archaeology and that plays a strong role in the story as well. While Max isn't a particularly likeable hero at first (unsurprising since he is a single child, 14-year-old boy), I couldn't help but feel sorry for him as he quickly finds himself in a situation that is way over his head. Luckily for him, Lola, a modern Mayan girl, comes along to help. Mythology is a very popular topic these days thanks to Rick Riordan and it's refreshing to get a glimpse of the Mayan world. The additional information about the Mayas at the end of the book was greatly appreciated by myself as it helped separate fact from fiction. This is a good series for readers who want more mythology but have finished Riordan's books.
Book 2: THE END OF THE WORLD CLUB
With the end of the Mayan calendar fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy and his new friend Lola, the modern Maya girl who saved his life in the perilous jungle, are racing against time to outwit the twelve Lords of Death. Following the trail of the conquistadors, their quest takes them back to the wild heart of Spain - a forgotten land steeped in legend, superstition and ever more bizarre tourist festivals. With a pack of hellhounds on their heels and the cape-twirling Count Antonio de Landa in hot pursuit, the teens must face madness and betrayal, bluff and double-bluff, to uncover the terrible secrets of the long-lost Yellow Jaguar. But no matter where they run, all roads lead to Xibalba. There, in the cold and watery Maya underworld, we finally discover why only Max Murphy can save the world from the villainous Lords of Death.
Book 3: THE RIVER OF NO RETURN
A hurricane is brewing in the jungles of the Maya, and the ancient Death Lords are on the warpath. Across the world in Venice, Italy, hanging out with his blogger friend Nasty (Anastasia) Smith-Jones and eating Pizza Gelato, Max Murphy thinks he is safe from their clutches. But when a rogue octopus pulls him off his gondola and tries to drag him down to the underworld, Max realizes that the Death Lords have not finished with him yet.
Soon Max is back in Central America and reunited with the only ones who can help him in his battle--Lola, the mysterious Maya girl, and the howler monkeys Lord 6-Dog and Lady Coco. Once again it's up to the four of them to save the world as they fight off mutant cave spiders, zombie warriors, and, of course, the twelve villainous Death Lords. With the hurricane about to hit land, Max and Lola embark on a one-way journey to danger down the blighted Monkey River. They take shelter in a subterranean hotel, only to stumble upon Death Lord central. Torn between rescuing themselves and rescuing one of the last wild jaguars of the Monkey River region, Max and Lola find themselves drawn into an ever more bizarre series of tests, culminating in a terrifying ballgame that they can never win.
Book 4: THE LOST CITY
The epic conclusion to the exciting Jaguar Stones series and a rip-roaring adventure into the heart of America!
With his parents in jail and the Maya Death Lords in possession of all five Jaguar Stones, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is pretty sure that he'll never get to leave the rainforest.
But the Lords of Death have a problem--a new king calling himself Great Sun claims to have the Jaguar Stones, too. And they want Max to prove the guy's a fraud. Or else.
Now, Max, and Lola, the mysterious girl who befriends him, are off on another wild adventure that will take them from Central America to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to the lost city at the heart of America's past.
But one thing Max should have learned after all of this dealings with the Death Lords -- they never keep their promises.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jon Voelkel grew up in Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia, all the while dreaming of a boring life in suburbia. Eventually, having survived monkey stew, an attack by giant rats, and a plane crash in the jungle, he rolled up his hammock and decamped to Europe. Meanwhile, growing up in a sedate seaside town in northern England, Pamela Craik Voelkel was dreaming of travel and adventure. The pair met in London, where they both worked in advertising. They went on to help found an award-winning agency, for which Jon was named one of the fifty most creative minds in Britain by the Financial Times. The authors' first book in the Jaguar Stones series, Middleworld, was an Al Roker Book Club pick. The Voelkels now live in Vermont with their three children. You can visit them online at www.jaguarstones.com.
WELCOME TO MIDDLEWORLD
J&P Voelkel take us on a tour of the fantasy world they created
for their Maya-themed adventure series, The Jaguar Stones
We didn't invent the name Middleworld. It's what the ancient Maya called the world of men. It was in the middle, sandwiched between the breezy heavens and the watery underworld. The Jaguar Stones books are about the friendship between a city boy from Boston called Max and a modern Maya girl called Lola. Together they try to save Middleworld from the clutches of the ancient Maya Lords of Death. The story is set in the present day, so the villainous Death Lords have to get to grips with things like marketing and social media if they're ever going to stage a comeback.
It's tricky writing anything about the ancient Maya, because there's just so much that nobody knows. In theory, we should know everything about them because they wrote it all down in painted bark paper books. Sadly, all but three of those books were burned in the Spanish conquest. So we only have a tiny glimpse of the treasures that were lost.
But what has survived is the spirit of the Maya. And that's what we've tried to reflect in creating the world of the Jaguar Stones. To avoid the politics of modern day Central America, our books are set in a fictional country called San Xavier. It's loosely based on Belize, both for its swashbuckling history of pirates and smugglers, and the fact that one of its official languages is English.
We had a lot of fun bringing back an ancient Maya king and his mother, in the form of two talking howler monkeys. (You'll have to read the books to find out how THAT happens!) Lord 6-Dog and Lady Coco are based on a real king of Palenque called Pakal, and his mother, the Red Queen. Through them, we've tried to convey life in a Maya royal court. There is this over-riding image of the Maya as obsessed with human sacrifice, but that more fairly describes the Aztecs. The Maya were war-like, for sure, but they should also get credit for their magnificent arches, straight roads and indoor plumbing. Not to mention their wild fashion sense.
So it's a balancing act between trying to convey an accurate picture of Maya life and creating an exciting fictional world of magic and mystery. Every Jaguar Stones book is fact-checked by a leading archaeologist to make sure we don't take too many liberties. That roots us in reality and defines how far we can go. The reason he helps us is that he read THE HARDY BOYS AND THE AZTEC PRINCE when he was a kid, and that inspired him to become an archaeologist. He's hoping our books will do the same for a new generation. (We've already had one sure-fire convert!)
The Jaguar Stones books are populated by a mixture of modern Maya people, mythical Maya creatures, characters from ancient history, and the families of Max and Lola. In their own ways, all of them are all living on the fringes of reality. Even the rainforest with its tightly-knit ecology is a world unto itself, with its own characters, rules and logic. Who would ever believe that a tree would recruit ants to be its bodyguards? Or that an innocent little caterpillar could disguise itself as a deadly snake?
1 set of the entire Jaguar Stones series (3 paperbacks & 1 hardback)
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THE JAGUAR STONES 2015 BLOG TOUR
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Sharon Pinky Pollack
Q&A and Giveaway
Guest Post and Giveaway
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Guest Post and Giveaway
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Guest Post and Giveaway
Friday, February 13, 2015
Review, Guest Post and Giveaway
Guest Post and Giveaway
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Monday, February 16, 2015
Guest post and giveaway
Tuesday, February 17