Sunday, June 19, 2022

Review: Harley James and the Mystery of the Mayan Kings by Leah Cupps

I stumbled across today's read on Netgalley and was so drawn in by the blurb and title, that I had to give it a go. I love books, which weave facts with fiction, and considering this one also packs mystery and puzzles...well, wouldn't be to like? At least, that's what I hoped. Let's see if it met my expectations.

Harley James Adventures, 
Book One
by Leah Cupps
Vision Forty Press
Middle Grade Mystery
150 pages
ages 8 to 12

Will Harley Find the Missing Mayan Statue & Save the World?

Amateur cryptologist Harley James has just landed in the sticky jungle of Tikal, Guatemala—home to the famous Mayan ruins. She’s made a few friends, a few mistakes…and a ground-breaking discovery.

The legendary statue of the long-lost Mayan King.

Just as she is about to impress her father with her discovery, the statue is stolen. Right from her own room!

And what’s worse? The legend says if the statues of the three kings are reunited, they’ll bring back an army from the dead to rule the world.

Follow along with Harley as she tracks down the missing Mayan statue, solves a few riddles and stumbles upon a secret society that will change her life forever!



History, mystery, puzzles, and tons of action make this the perfect book to get lost in and leaves the wish to travel the world.

Harley is the only daughter of an archaeologist, and gets to travel the world and visit the most amazing places. While in a jungle in South America, Harley heads out to explore a little on her own...which her father wouldn't like if he knew...and runs across an ancient wall buried between the trees. When she figures out which stone is missing and fits it into place, a hidden statue comes into view. She wants to show it to her father and hides it under her bed until she has a chance, but someone steals it. Not only does she need to figure out who took it, but coded notes, secret meetings and a strange boy mean she's in for more than just a little adventure.

This is the first book in a series, and what a beginning it is! Harley is a curious girl, who loves to solve puzzles and likes to explore. She ranks friendship high, loves her father, isn't a homework fan, and despite her desire for a little more independence, does hesitate, sometimes. In other words, she's a pretty normal girl, who many readers will be able to identify with and wish they could explore with her. 

The pacing makes this book hard to put down. Something is always happening, and little clues slide in here and there. Written in first person, the reader always knows what Harley is thinking, and her down-to-earth nature makes her easy to identify with. The mystery mixes with tension, and the twists and turns aren't always easy to see coming. The characters leave just enough uncertainty in their true natures and intentions to keep the reader guessing. And all of it is age appropriate.

While the tale is already fun, puzzles and historical facts give it even more richness. The reader gets to solve the riddles with Harley, and these vary in types and difficulty. The entire tale is based on historical and cultural facts and myths, allowing the reader to learn more about the Mayans along the way. None of this comes across as preachy or teach-y, but rather, it melds right in with the plot. As an extra bonus, the website offers puzzles, facts and other tidbits connected with the story. So, there are quite a few possibilities and things to do. Oh, and there are illustrations sprinkled in the chapters as well.

This is a read for mystery and puzzle fans with more than a little adventure, and the beginning of what promises to be a great series. So, yes, I can recommend this one.

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