Cover Image: Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl

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Twists and turns keep the reader on their toes, to figure outcome of this story. Shinji Takahashi buys an interesting curio in a junk shop in Abenge, some henchmen try to take it from him and he ends up with the mark of the Coatl on his arm.  This tattoo sends him on an adventure, where he is captured by the Hightower Corporation, escapes and the must go on a quest to be rid of the Coatl. Will he ever find his way back to his Aunt Yui?
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Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl follows Shinji as he accidentally becomes a conduit for a magical guardian. Shinji's life had been perfectly normal but suddenly he's being kidnapped by an evil corporation because they want the power of the coatl. Shinji manages to escape with some assistance from Lucy, a tech whiz with a robot mouse. Shinji and Lucy team up with the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and hopefully they'll find a way to release Shinji as the conduit before the Hightower Corporation catches up to them.

This book was so fun! It's such a great adventure story. I loved the classic adventure elements: riddles and secret societies and treasure. But there was also magic and robot mice and it just felt like a fresh kind of adventure. I loved the characters, especially Oliver Ocean, and the Society was so cool. I'd love to read more in this world, as it seemed like there was so much more to learn about the Society and so many more adventures that could be had.
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Really good! Like Indiana Jones, but for kids. With respect for the environment and native peoples. Should be a big hit.
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Another great Riordan Presents title. I loved the characters and Kagawa is a master. I loved her other books and really enjoyed this addition to her written works.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book to read. This book was published back in April. 

This is the first book in The Society of Explorers and Adventurers by Julie Kagawa. A really fantastic middle grade book that weaves in mythology and Disney! This will be a great suggestion for kids who have already read the Percy Jackson series but are looking for something similar to read.
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<i>"You see, young Shinji, there are certain places in the world where magic bubbles to the surface. It is unseen and invisible; you cannot see the magic, but you can feel it. We call these special places fonts, and everything touched by them takes on a little magic of its own. If you build on or near a font, strange and wonderful things can happen. In fact, one of the largest fonts in the world was discovered right here, in Anaheim. We are not sure if the owner was aware of the presence of the font or not. But in 1955, a man named Walt Disney built his dream upon this magical font, and the rest, as they say, is history."</i>

TL;DR: Not really a book *about Disney* or Disneyland, but I'm a sucker for a good "this is why Disney is so magical" plot detail. The magic also isn't really the point of this book, but I loved the meta-ness of the quote -- probably should have picked one more related to environmental conservationism or cultural respect, but it is what it is. 
Okay. In retrospect, perhaps it *is* a book about Disney -- albeit in an indirect, deep dive kind of way.
<b><i>I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.</b></i>

Vibes: Percy Jackson + <i>The Jungle Cruise</i>*
*Literally The Jungle Cruise, since there's a very subtle reference to a newspaper headline about Dr. Albert Falls being missing. 
**ETA: I feel like a massive failure of a Disney fan, because apparently <a href="">SEA is a legit Disney thing which started in TokyoSEA or even Pleasure Island</a>. FAIL, LISA. FAIL. 

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy >>> Mythology / Adventure
*Basically Percy Jackson meets Indiana Jones. But I really appreciated that Julie Kagawa doesn't write down to her readers (like Uncle Rick) so this could appeal to many ages, I think. 

Romance Meter: ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡
Romantic love is not the focus here -- despite some readers wanting to ship Shinji & Lucy.  

Character MVP: Oliver Ocean. He read like a mash-up of Rhys Darby's character from the Jumanji reboot/sequel and Jack Sparrow. Very quippy. 

Verdict: A very FUN read. 

I'm distracted by my lack of knowledge about SEA as existing outside the narrative framework and being something that connects the backstories of Disney attractions around the world. I figured there was a connection -- but thought it was only a superficial nod -- since Kagawa references Dr. Albert Falls as well as Discovery Trading Company (which is the name of the gift shop in Animal Kingdom). So my mind is a bit blown by that and I'm off to go fall down a Disney rabbit hole about that....

...But, yes. The story. 

Is very fun. It's like a Middle-Grade version of Indiana Jones or The Mummy or Jumanji or, I suppose, a sort of book sequel to The Rock & Emily Blunt's film version of <i>The Jungle Cruise</i>. 

I thought it was delightful. The pacing seemed a bit off to me -- it took the first half to "set up" (which seemed a bit long, objectively, but not practically) and then the second half was the series of adventures. It didn't drag or spend too long on one episodic adventure, which I very much appreciated. 

The diversity was lovely, and not forced -- and neither was the environmentalism / culturally conscious messages about respecting indigenous cultures. The members of SEA do acknowledge that, in the past, they weren't so respectful, but were trying to do better now, which was a lovely message. The scene with the rope bridge in particular stuck with me -- both Lucy and Shinji question why they don't cut the rope bridge once they make it to the other side (so, obviously, the bad guys can't follow, as all action-adventure movies have taught us) but Maya responds with this:

<i>"This bridge was built by the people who live in this jungle...If we destroy it, we destroy part of their way of life. It would take them months to rebuild, and who knows how their lives would be disrupted. Bad enough that we already damaged it. The bridge is not ours to take down. We leave it untouched, like everything else."</i> 

I'm sure there will be sequels, and I will happily read them. After I learn more about SEA in the parks. FAIL, LISA.
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So Shinji Takahashi is an orphan who lives with his Aunt Yui. She homeschools him and he fills his free time by being mouthy and playing video games. He's annoyed, wants to do "normal" kid things. Then his aunt gives him some money to get out of her hair and find something that interests him. 

Enter the Coatl statue. And then three goons who are more than a little obvious about the fact they want it. 

This is where the book takes off. Shinji is kidnapped by the goons, his aunt is left unconscious on her boat and he's whisked all the way to New York. Only the statue is gone. In its place? A tattoo on his arm. And they don't care who they have to hurt to get it. 

The two kids escape and wind up at one of the buildings belonging to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers or SEA. 

It's a fast paced book with some memorable characters and Shinji's growth is nice. He actually changes a fair amount from his state in the beginning of the book. I enjoyed the characters for the most part but there were so many in SEA that not all of them got  enough time to shine and really jump off the page. 

When it comes to Shinji and Lucy's friendship, there's a big problem where trustworthiness comes up. And I felt like maybe it was wrapped up a little quickly. It maybe could have benefitted form a little more just...more. 

When it comes to the ending, it's satisfying more or less but it also felt a little fast and easy in some parts. We get a bad guy who threatens for a while before finally doing anything and that was a bit of an eyeroll for me. 

There is something in the end that will probably be a bit of a pain for older readers. It has a strong ecological, "humans are bad, look what they did to the world" bend from the bad guy. Full monologue. And while some of those things are true, just seeing it so drawn out was something that killed the pacing for me. It was like "yep, got it. humans bad." 

My other issue is it almost seemed like Shinji forgot about his Aunt Yui. He went for long stretches of time without thinking about her at all and then remembering her. "Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, my missing aunt, the only family I have left." If she was supposed to be so important to him, it would have been nice to see him worry about her a little more. 

But for what it's worth, as a middle grade book, I give it a four (4) out of five (5).

I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to them and the publisher.
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Traveling with his aunt around the world, Shinji innocently buys a coatl statue in a market — and that purchase changes everything. He’s kidnapped off his aunt’s boat by the Hightower Corporation who wants the statue’s magical power but Shinji’s already bonded with it. A girl who works at the Corporation helps Shinji escape (along with her and her AI mouse) and they ask the mysterious and seemingly rag-tag Society for Explorers and Adventurers for help. The Society helps the kids travel to Mexico where they can return the Quetzalcoatl statue to the font of magic before the magic drains Shinji and before the Corporation’s goons catch up with them. Adventure from the first page, plenty of science and magic, an evil mega-corporation, an ancient curse, a spy, and an angry spider monster — this is a mesmerizing, exciting adventure that readers will love.
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Shinji lives with his eccentric aunt, Yui, since his parents died when he was a baby. He travels all over the world with her as she looks for exotic things to take back to her shop in Miami, Florida. Their latest adventure has them on the Zambezi River. All Shinji wants is to find some air conditioning and play his video games. To stop his whining, Yui gives him some mending and sends him on a search of his own. He finds a little hole-in-the-wall shop and discovers an idol that looks like a winged serpent. He buys it and heads off to meet his aunt when two goons chase after him, demanding that he turn the idol over to them. They chase him all the way to his aunt’s boat where, during a fight, the idol melds with Shinji and becomes a tattoo on his arm.

From there, we got into a “The Librarian” type of story with good guys, bad guys, weird magic, adventure looking for a missing temple in Mexico, mythological beings fighting each other for control of the world, and Shinji at the middle of all it.

This is a great Middle Grade YA story full of adventure. I absolutely loved Lucy, his friend, and her little robotic mouse. I actually cried over it for a moment. She turned out to be an amazing friend. The choices Shinji makes make sense for him and the events at the moment. And the SEA (Society of Explorers and Adventurers) help him on the way, plus they have good ethics. Shinji has great teachers around him to help him through his trials. 

And even though this story ends well, it also leaves enough of an opening that we know more adventures will be coming for Shinji and his friends.  

Recommendation: If your kids like adventure books, definitely get this one! It’s fun, scary (at times), interesting information told in an entertaining way, and has a good ending that leaves you feeling good for them. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to Disney and Netgalley for this ARC.
 Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
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**4.5-stars rounded up**

Julie Kagawa never fails to completely capture my attention with her stories. Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is no exception. This Middle Grade Adventure story was an absolute blast to read!

When he was very young, Shinji Takahashi lost both of his parents in a devastating house fire. Since that time, he has lived with her Aunt Yui. Aunt Yui and Shinji travel the world in their boat, The Good Tern, searching for rare treasures for her business. In a way, they're real life treasure hunters. It's an interesting life; Shinji can't complain, even though he is a bit surly at times.

While in Africa, they visit the small village of Abenge. Shinji goes exploring while his Aunt does some work. She gives him a bit of cash, so he can pick out a treasure of his own. In a dusty old shop, he comes across an idol that will change the course of his life. A magical object that binds itself to Shinji and tattoos the Mark of the Coatl on his arm.

Almost as soon as he has the object in his hot little hands, a pair of menacing men approach Shinji and try to get the object from him. When Shinji refuses, it looks like things may turn violent and Shinji decides to run for it. He's not sure what exactly he has, but obviously it's valuable as heck because these dudes aren't giving up.

Before he can even make sense of it, Shinji is captured and whisked away to an unknown location. Once there, he is able to befriend a girl named, Lucy. She fills him in a bit on the people behind his capture, the mysterious Hightower Corporation. Lucy seems to be some sort of tech prodigy and Shinji likes her right away, but can he trust her?

It seems Lucy is an ally. She aids in his escape from Hightower and leads him to some people who she thinks will be able to help and protect him: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, better known as SEA. It seems the tattoo on Shinji's arm, the Mark of the Coatl, is actually a curse of sorts. In order to break it, Shinji must return to the source of the magic's power and return it.

A team from SEA is assembled, made up of Oliver Ocean, Maya Griffin, Professor Carrero and Zoe Kim, participating via her drone, to help Shinji and Lucy on their quest. Along the way, the group faces many obstacles, both natural and magical. They're forced to face human villains, as well as creatures of legends. It's a wild ride!

This was such a easy story to get into. Kagawa is a gifted storyteller and this one drew me in from the very start. I loved Shinji so much. He truly embodies all of the characteristics needed in a hero. Additionally, I loved learning more about the secret organization of SEA. Hardcore Disney fans will find some Easter Eggs in this one. That made it extra fun, but really this story can be enjoyed by anyone.

The intensity builds in a nice, steady pace throughout the story, all leading to an epic showdown in the temple of the Coatl. There were some scenes where I was biting my nails, edge-of-my-seat, praying for my favorites. Kagawa did a fantastic job of incorporating various folklore from around the world into this, as well as providing a strong message on the importance of protecting the world's cultural artifacts.

This ended in such a great spot for the continuation of the series. I have no idea how many books are slated to be included in this series, or even if there will be multiple authors contributing. Either way, I am in for the long haul. Bring on more SEA!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was an excellent start to another fantastic Middle Grade series!!
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Thank you Disney-Hyperion for an eARC via NetGalley for an honest review. 

4.5/5 stars

Wow! This was such a fun read. I flew through it, and I really enjoyed it. Shinji was a funny character, but he was also brave and loyal. I think readers will really like his story, and the adventure that he goes on. While reading it gave me vibes similar to Fablehaven and Percy Jackson in the sense that the main character was on an adventure searching for something mythical and magical and there was lots of excitement. 
The story picks up pretty quickly when Shinji finds a statue in a shop in an African village. After he buys the statue, these men in suits approach him and try to bully him into giving them the statue, but Shinji refuses. This leads to him being kidnapped by the men and taken to the Hightower corporation where he meets Lucy. 
Lucy was a character I liked a lot. I wish we’d gotten even more of her because she was super smart and interesting. I also loved Tinker and thought he was adorable. I liked the friendship that Lucy and Shinji developed. 
Lucy and Shinji escape Hightower and find the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and with the help of SEA they go to Mexico City in order to search for the temple of the Coatl. I really liked the idea of the magic in the world, and I wish we’d gotten to see more. I also liked the adventuring through the jungle, and the traps that the group faced. The magic and the mythical creatures were super cool, and I liked the ending a lot. 
Overall this was a really great and entertaining read.
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I absolutely ADORED this book! I loved Shinji's voice. How outspoken and funny he was as well as how resourceful he was. He had so much strength and determination throughout the story, Shinji also had me cracking up the entire time which balanced emotional moments perfectly! I'm so excited to see what the next book holds! I'm ready whenever Book 2 comes out!
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This is a perfect new addition to the Rick Riordan Presents group! I loved it so much as a huge fan of Disney Parks. I think kids will love this.
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I’m a huge fan of Kagawa’s YA books, so I was excited to see what her MG has to offer, and I was definitely not disappointed. Apparently this book is a spin-off of existing Society of Explorers and Adventurers lore that you can find in the actual Disney theme parks. I didn’t know anything about that storytelling, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book (and I’m actually headed to Disney World in June, so now I’m motivated to specifically look for SEA-related attractions when I go).

In this tale, a boy named Shinji finds a figurine of a coatl (a serpentine dragon) and immediately finds himself under attack by evil henchmen who want to take it from him. He tries to escape but instead ends up kidnapped and under the coatl’s curse. A girl named Lucy helps Shinji escape his kidnappers and then the two go to the SEA for help, which leads them on a deadly adventure through a Mesoamerican jungle!

The book is fast-paced, and it’s also full of twists and turns and plenty of danger! And there’s always a question of who Shinji can trust (sometimes he’s not even sure he can trust himself since his curse supposedly includes hallucinations). Those mysteries will keep kids turning the pages. And I love that Shinji is a Japanese American character, but the book isn’t about that at all – it’s almost not even mentioned. That’s not to say I don’t love it when I see culture on the page, but kids need to see themselves reflected on the page in all different ways. Not every Asian kid has the same lived experience. Shinji’s adventurous and carefree aunt breaks all the stereotypes of the overbearing Asian parent, which is nice to see sometimes.

This book is a complete story, but Kagawa left the door open for future books in the series, and I can’t wait to read them!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Rockstar Book Tours and NetGalley so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book. 
This book was very reminiscent of Percy Jackson and was such a fun read. The book was paced with adventure and Shinji was a great main character. His and Lucy’s dynamic was amazing! I cannot wait to see what comes next for these two.
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Shinji Takahashi lives with his Aunt Yui traveling around the world on her boat after his parents died in a house fire when he was young. While in Africa, Shinji sees a coatl statue in a store that he feels is calling to him. When he buys it, a group of men in suits tries to convince him to hand it over. Shinji refuses and tries to escape with his aunt on their boat, but the statue magically attaches itself to Shinji in the form of a tattoo, and Shinji is kidnapped by the men. When Shinji wakes up, he is confronted by a man who will do anything to get the coatl and its magic. After escaping captivity and traveling across the United States with a girl named Lucy, Shinji must seek help with the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA). Will Shinji be able to escape the Coatl's Curse before it's too late?
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Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is a fun, fast-paced adventure perfect for any fans of races against the clock and Disney parks lore. As a huge Disney nerd, I absolutely loved the reference sprinkled throughout, and the globe-trotting adventure was absolutely perfect for me. If any of this floats your boat, pick up a copy of this book today!

(Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
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Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is a Middle-Grade action-packed fantasy adventure written by YA author Julie Kagawa. It pulls you right in from the beautiful cover art to the opening paragraph of the prologue. 

The novel is fast-paced with adventure taking place in a myriad of locations, from the ruthless Hightower Corporation stopping at nothing to gain what they want to the SEA (the Society of Explorers and Adventures) hoping to thwart Hightower and help Shinji return the Coatl to its guardian. This book was the perfect combination of Percy Jackson and Indian Jones all rolled into one! The narrative and blending of Japanese and Mesoamerican mythology was beyond intriguing. 

Adventure, action, magic, mystery and mythology on every page will have you reading till the very end of what I hope is only the first in this brilliant new series.
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Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa is the newest member of the Rick Riordan Presents line and it was so fast-paced and adventurous! It had so many exciting aspects--a super shady organization out for world domination, a super secret organization called "The Society of Explorers and Adventurers", and of course, some mythology twists running throughout. 

I FLEW through this book. I will say, I do wish we had a little more time with Shinji and saw a little more to his character, but that's primarily because I really liked him as a MC. He definitely struggled a lot with trusting others and you do get to the root of it in this story, but I do think there is room for more discussion of this. I hope to see more books! I loved that throughout the book, a huge emphasis was placed on protecting the environment and basically, not taking what doesn't belong to us. I would love to continue to see these themes in more children's/middle-grade books. 

If you are a middle-grade fan, or you (or a young person you know) enjoy fast-paced, adventurous stories, this is for you! Also...if you are a Disney/Disney Parks fan, this story is based on "The Society of Explorers and Adventurers" legends/stories that are present throughout the various parks. I was doing some research and it is SO fun. :)
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For much of his life, thirteen-year-old Shenji Takahashi has traveled the world with his Aunt Yui, searching for new and interesting trinkets for her to sell in her shop in Miami. Journeying on her ship, the Good Tern, Shenji has the chance to experience myriad cultures around the world every year. When their travels take them to Africa and Shenji is invited to select an object on his own, he finds himself in a shop where one particular artifact catches his eye. Little does he know, this object is more than it seems, and Shenji becomes connected to a centuries-old curse that he must do all he can to reverse before time runs out.

This adventure-driven story fits quite well into the Rick Riordan canon of tales both in its captivating storytelling style and overall global perspective. Instead of focusing on one culture, however, this story does an excellent job connecting several different cultures from around the world into a pulse-pounding narrative. Throughout the novel, Shenji Takashi must determine where the truth is really found while learning how to trust himself in the absence of his family. Despite an innate desire to trust those he encounters, he seeks evidence in each circumstance to prove the loyalty of his companions. Shenji has many people alongside him throughout his journey, but he is the only one who places his needs as the primary focus. As all young teenagers experience the transition from being dependent on others to being self-sufficient, so too does Shenji grow in his capacity to care for himself.

Readers who enjoy global storytelling and a high-stakes mystery will easily fall into Shenji’s story and its myriad destinations. The adrenaline-packed storytelling is deeply immersive, using vivid imagery to bring Shenji’s experiences to life for the reader. Pieces of Mesoamerican history are woven into mentions of Shenji’s Japanese background, African culture, and more, creating a dynamic tapestry that enhances readers’ background knowledge of human history from around the globe. Attentive readers will catch hints throughout the novel about how the story will unfold, but it is nonetheless a riveting ride. This is a superb series debut, and it is one that will keep readers waiting eagerly for the subsequent installments.
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