Thursday, January 6, 2022

Book Review | Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera

Source: preordered purchase. This is a review of my reading experience.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is a debut middle grade fantasy/horror novel by Kaela Rivera.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera

Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.

When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans and agrees to help her on her journey.

With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.

I fell in love with Cece Rios right away. We quickly learn about Cece, her town, the local criaturas, her family, the folklore... we learn so many things right off the bat, and I was pulled right into Cece's story. I was so invested in her future and her familia.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is filled with Mexican folklore. You will likely recognize the names of the criaturas that were inspired by legends such as La Llorona, El Cucuy, El Chupacabra, While Kaela Rivera doesn't provide much information on the legends of the criaturas, it's not necessary to know the folklore in order to understand Cece's story.

I adored Cece's character and the unlikely friendships she made in this book. Cece shows the reader how patience, kindness, and showing love to others are qualities that make you strong. It's not always physical strength or fury that makes you strong.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is the first book in a planned series. This book can certainly stand on its own, but there's a lot I'm looking forward to (hopefully) getting to see in the rest of the series (like darker settings and specific characters we didn't get to meet).

If you are a fan of the Rick Riordan Presents books (especially Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia), I think you'll love Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls.

4/5 stars

Content warnings: kidnapping, parental abuse, alcoholism


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