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Temples of the Mist: Mayan 6th Sun

A Mexico book by Julia Maganini

Reviewed by James Tipton

Temples of the Mist: Mayan 6th Sun

AuthorHouse (Bloomington, Indiana), 2009
Available from Amazon Books: Paperback

Temples of the Mist is for teenagers and about teenagers. Seventeen-year-old Caleana and her thirteen-year-old brother Marsh were part of a happy family, a California beach-town family that had a "deep longing to make a difference in the world," a family where the mother practiced yoga and wrote articles to "protect pristine wilderness in the highlands of Santa Barbara" and the father, a gifted archaeologist, traveled "to the ancient corners of the world."

Her parents know that Caleana is currently fascinated by the Mayans — partly because of a project her teacher has assigned to her, teaming her up "with the cutest boy in the school." Her parents leave a week early to camp out in the jungle near the Palenque ruins, but in the jungle mist the pilot of their small plane loses control and crashes. The father is killed and possibly the mother, although because the mother's body had not been found, no one is sure.

Uncle Aiden and Aunt Bette and the two children fly back to Cancun to identify the body of their father, and while there Aunt Bette, to lift the spirits of the children, takes them to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. As they settle into the bus, Aunt Bette places in Caleana's hand "a beautiful amulet of green jade and crystals around a circle. In the middle of the circle was an ancient Mayan woman with a serpent on her head, and jaguar ears and claws." Caleana feels "an unexplainable chill go up and down her body." It had been found at the crash site and it was believed to be her mother's.

Back home in Summerland, Caleana takes delight that because of Dune she was "the envy of all the girls" in her class: "I felt sexy around him and constantly wanted his attention."

In not very sophisticated prose, although perhaps appropriate to a teenage girl's point of view, we learn that "Dune was handsome, dark, tall and lean, muscular. His sparkling green eyes were breathtaking. When he looked at me, he gave me butterflies in my stomach…."

We also meet Violet, "the sister I never had." And of course to have some exotic variety we learn that Violet was half Jamaican and half Chinese," with, what else, ""olive skin and almond-shaped eyes." Caleana, a confident young lady, tells us, "We were the hotties." We also discover that the sexy Dune was Mexican on his mother's side and Irish on his father's side. And the original plan was for Dune and Violet to join them on the family vacation.

While she was at Chichen Itza with Aunt Bette ,Caleana discovered that she felt unusually connected to the Mayan site. This was intensified dramatically when "a little Mayan lady" stared at her amulet and then ordered her to: "Busca a tu madre. Ella te necesita. Rápido. Palenque…." The message was clear: "find your mother quickly in Palenque."

The skies suddenly turned dark, it thundered loudly, and the wind "was now blowing furiously."

Suddenly Caleana was facing a big jaguar who was "staring directly at me with indescribable human-like eyes. This jaguar, and its human form Hmen, becomes her guide on a journey that wanders through not only the jungles of the Yucatán but time itself, to a very ancient Mayan world where her mother now lives.

After the funeral, Uncle Aiden and Aunt Bette decide to return Mexico to search for Caleana's mother. Dune and Violet go with them as well as Marsh's friend, Mueller.

In Palenque, then, the five teenagers find ways to be on their own: Caleana, Marsh, Violet, and Dune. Uncle Aiden warns: "No funny stuff, you hormonal teenagers."

In a Mayan home Caleana is told that her amulet is "of the jaguar Goddess Ixchel. With that amulet on, you can see people not only in this world, but in the other world as well."

In a jungle ceremony suddenly all of the teenagers can see the jaguar, the Shaman Jaguar, Hmen Balam, who transforms into an old man. "He looked like he had stepped out of National Geographic magazine." He reveals to Caleana: "Your mother was taken by Cizin, the God of Death, who tried to take her to the underworld, but Goddess Ixchel appeared and saved her from certain death by distracting him. She's in a transcendental state. Ixchel didn't bring her back, but took your mom to a place where she thought she was needed. She took your mom to Palenque in 300 AD."

He tells Caleana, "You, beautiful one, have the power of the amulet and the power of love…. You must go forth in faith and love. I will be a step ahead guiding you. Your answers will be at the Temples of the Mist." He turns to Dune and tells him that he also has a special power.

Uncle Aiden is off into the jungles with a search party, and Aunt Bette, conveniently, must return to California for a few days "to straighten up some bank documents," and so, our gang of teenager adventurers can, without interference, go through the portal, to another dimension, to Palenque in the fourth century. Immediately things got complicated. They were "escorted up the steps of the pyramid as the King walked ahead of us with two servants on each side of him…. Suddenly, four men walked up the temple steps pulling a screaming woman to the slab, which I surmised was some type of altar. She was a beautiful young Mayan woman, and she was brought forth naked, kicking and screaming…. As quickly as she was laid on the altar, one of the men stabbed her and cut her heart out, holding it up for all to see."

Resisting the sexual advances of the King, Caleana is tossed into a dungeon, but she escapes, and then discovers in another chamber something even more surprising.

At any rate, Temples of the Mist is a thriller for teens, set in the exotic Yucatán of both present and past, complete with a teenage love story that has lots of twists and turns and tangles, including "Ixtab… the Goddess of Warriors," a very beautiful woman who "has a good hold on Dune now with her sexual powers."

Caleana reflects on that particular development: "I was so angry at Dune's weakness. That a goddess could just overpower him that way made me question what Dune's real feelings were for me."

Lots more adventures follow, but a thriller novel is best left alone to do its job: to thrill.

All in all, Temples of the Mist might be a good book to buy for that teenager in your family who has some fascination for Mexico or at least for adventure. Throughout I kept imagining the story as a movie, one my Mexican daughter and her girlfriends would certainly enjoy.

Published or Updated on: June 25, 2010 by James Tipton © 2010
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