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NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT
By Diana L. Driver
L&L Dreamspell, 2007 ($16.95)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Seventeen-year-old Zack is looking forward to a summer of surfing and loafing at the beach, but his parents have other plans. They drop a major bomb on him and his brother Kyle -- they are splitting up. That was bad enough, but then their dad gave them some more bad news. Zack and Kyle are being sent off to the jungles of Guatemala to stay with their uncle at an archaeological site.
Zack already feels like a screw-up, especially compared to his older, cooler brother. He is determined to live up to his reputation as a troubled teen, rejecting any possibility of having a good time. On his first night in Guatemala he witnesses a murder and gets the attention of a major Bad Guy who thinks Zack has something he wants. He does, in fact, have a crude map that might mark the location of a priceless artifact, but he doesn't discover that until later. Zack chooses not to tell the authorities about the murder, thinking he probably wouldn't be believed anyway. It's not a good decision, but it is one a troubled kid would make.
Things at the camp are as bad as he expected. Golden boy Kyle gets the chicks, and Zack gets punches and kicks. As he spends more time around the ruins, he finds himself strangely drawn to them, even having visions of ancient Maya rites that are both terrifying and exciting. A mysterious shaman tells him this is where he belongs, and he begins to feel that may be true. He has to deal with the usual teenage problems: standing up to bullies, fighting with his brother, trying to understand teenage girls, being misunderstood by his elders, and so on, while trying to stay one step ahead of a gang of vicious smugglers, finding and protecting a precious treasure, and finding himself.
Ms. Driver has done a great job on every level, getting into the head of a teenage boy, creating realistic characters, instilling an ever-higher level of suspense, and depicting Maya culture and the lush tropical setting by showing, not telling, the reader. Her research is meticulous. The novel is equally enjoyable to adult and teenage readers. I look forward to Zack's next adventure.
Click here to read an interview with author, Diana Driver.
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