The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Córdova, 336 pp, RL 4
The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Córdova
Cover art by Erin McGuire
Review Copy from Scholasltic
The Way to Rio Luna is the fantastic middle grade debut from Córdova, award winning author of the YA Brooklyn Brujas trilogy. What is especially exciting and impressive about this book is the way Córdova takes familiar aspects from the world of fantasy and sends them spinning down new and exciting paths, signaling this from the first pages of The Way to Rio Luna where we meet believer Danny Monteverde. Raised on the stories of The Way to Rio Luna, a collection of fairy tales by Ella St. Cly that his big sister, Pili, would read to him, Danny is sure that magic is just around the corner. Foster children, Danny and Pili are sent to separate homes when they are nine and eleven. And then Pili disappears without a trace. Sure she would never leave him, Danny spends the next two years reading the book she left with him and looking for magic, even when it means jumping off the roof with a questionable bottle of fairy dust. His attempts to find magic become so drastic that his foster father throws his beloved , tattered copy of The Way to Rio Luna in the trash, leaving him desolate. About to be sent back to the group home, Danny decides to follow the possibly-magical signs he sees during a field trip to the New York Public Library, coming face to face with the original, handwritten (in magical ink) copy of The Way to Rio Luna.
This is where Danny meets Glory Papillon and her Aunt North, and archaeologist and - firm believer in magic - who is restoring the book and trying to find the four missing pages. When this first edition of The Way to Rio Luna appears in Danny's backpack, along with magical, golden symbols on his hands and arms, they decide that he is the chosen child who can find missing pages - pages that will also reveal the four keys needed to enter Rio Luna. Convinced that Pili has already found the way to Rio Luna, Danny and Glory begin their quest, with Aunt North making travel and lodging arrangements along the way. As they uncover magical portals and meet heroes from the stories in The Way to Rio Luna, they gain companions, like Llewellyn, the Fifteenth Prince of the Red Woods (a regal jackalope in a dashing cape) and Sinchi Victorel, an elderly guinea pig from Ecuador who traveled to the Cliffs of Nowhere in Rio Luna by way of a shooting star.
As the friends travel south to collect the missing pages and the keys that will allow them to enter Rio Luna, they learn that the Shadow Queen, once imprisoned by the Moon Witch, may have escaped her life sentence. Coming face to face with her at the climax of the novel, readers will be left breathless and anxiously awaiting the next book in this series. If this first book found Danny and Glory looking for the way to Rio Luna, the next book will find them in Rio Luna, but a very different one from the stories that once enchanted them...