Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Published: October 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Not one of the sacrifices chosen over the long history had survived–until now.
On the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, the immortal Castillo family gathers in Tulum. Weary and haunted, they receive the names of fifty-two human sacrifices chosen once every fifty-two years for the Underworld, a tradition thought to have disappeared with the fall of the Aztec and Mayan empires.
Driving home one night, college freshman Zara Moss swerves to avoid hitting a ghastly figure in the road. Lucas Castillo witnesses the car crash, but when it comes time to supervise her abduction from the wreckage, he intervenes. Something is different about Zara: Lucas has been having dreams of her arrival for five hundred years.
As Lucas and Zara come together to put an end to the bloody sacrifices, they discover that the ancient tradition isn’t so easily broken. The gods are angry, and they have until the Winter Solstice to drag Zara to the Underworld.
I was quite excited to read the book after reading the synopsis. I have to admit that I was drawn by the cover at first, because of the dia de los muertos theme which I really like and adore. Then the synopsis is what really caught me, because of the fact that it incorporates Mayan and Aztec mythology – which I have never encountered much before in terms of fictional reading. And that is what mainly drawn me to the story – of course, that is not the only thing that made this dark, apocalyptic contemporary young adult book. This aspect of Dela’s debut novel unique.
The unique elements of the book is the one thing that kept me interested in the book, the information are all new and quite fascinating. I know a little about the Mayan and Aztec’s ancient practice of sacrificial rituals, but only minimal information. The 52nd has introduced me to a whole new different world, one that included mythology I have not encountered before, that I was not familiar with… and that I thought was a unique, and terrific experience. After reading the book (and even during it) I want to do more research about the Mayan and Aztec history and mythology, because as gruesome as they are I’m fascinated by the stories behind them.
Dela was remarkable in being able to write in these elements of the ancient world into the modern world, adding paranormal elements into the ordinary world – with the Castillo’s and of the Xibalban executioners, Celestials and Aluxes.
In terms of characters, Zara for the most part was a likable character – she is just like any other teenager, typical and average. But of course, we know that that isn’t true at all. Reading about Lucas and the Castillo’s was also enjoyable, they were interesting characters. Also, the fact that the author added in Zara’s family into the mix was refreshing, that is because in most cases when you read a YA paranormal trope such as the 52nd – the family tends to get lost in the story and you just never hear of them at all, so well done to Dela.
The book is very fast paced, meaning a lot of action! As much as it is focused on the romance between Lucas and Zara, they did not drown out the main plot at hand – to save Zara from certain death. Although, most of the book takes place in Tahoe, it was in Mexico where the action really took place with the epic battle against the Xibalban executioners and the Castillo’s! It brought something great to the story, as it is taking place where the myths and legends and history of such gruesome battles have originated from (in context to the story).
However, as much as it is an interesting story there are some flaws in it too. For instance, there were some parts in the book where information was so overwhelming, especially as this was a subject not known to me explicitly, the addition of fictional elements in the story is too much to process. Also, it would have helped if it was explained as to who were the Mayans were and who were the Aztecs – because I got really confused about whether the Mayans and Aztec are against each other, and the Xibalban’s were another threat… or who the different gods and goddesses were.
There were so many characters being introduced at one go, and although they have their own personalities, it is kind of hard sometime to distinguish them from one another – especially in the beginning and the middle of the book, where I felt like I kept on getting characters mixed up – at one point I managed to think that Lucas was speaking when actually it was Zara.
I also felt that Zara’s connection with Jett was pointless – it felt like a failed love triangle attempt, and it was poorly executed. I dislike love triangles in general, but this one – although it mainly focused on Zara, Lucas and her connection with Xavier, was just intolerable. I found it hard to believe that Jett had feelings for Zara and vice versa. Speaking of pointless characters, Zara’s friends… who were they? They just seemed like filler characters, and I didn’t really care about them. They all sounded the same to me, and didn’t really strike my interest when I suppose there should have been. They appear from time to time, but with such brief interactions that you forget that they are even there in the first place.
Also, I felt like I never really understood what the plot was for the book. I know that Zara was prophesised to do something – but I was never really clear on that. I wish that the whole prophecy was explained and what Zara really was. It has been mentioned how she will change things, and she as – but to what purpose?
Furthermore, the ending felt a little bit rushed. How things suddenly concluded for Jett and Zara, and then the Celestials decisions and there’s just so many things that I would like to be answered. I am not entirely sure whether this is a series or not, but if it is then I wouldn’t hesitate to get the next book just to find answers to my questions.
The bottom line is, the premise of the book has a great potential – and that it is such a unique case of YA paranormal trope in a plethora of similar stories in terms of where she gets the story from. Although there has been parts in the beginning and middle of the book where I felt overwhelmed with character introductions and information, I did really enjoy reading the book. Especially when things started to reach the climax, and as much as I would like to deny it, I really did enjoy reading about the development of Zara and Lucas’ romantic relationship with each other.