Straight from the mind of author Cesar Torres comes 13 Secret Cities, a thriller that pits Clara Montes, a fiery social-justice activist, against corruption of power and greed in Chicago, as well as a supernatural force from the Aztec world that will never stop hunting Clara.
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"The 13 Secret Cities" is a fast-paced, intense and scary novel. You jump right into the action on the very first page when Clara, the protagonist, runs for her life during a violent riot in Chicago.
My favourite part, though, was Clara's struggle for identity. Her parents' Mexican background conflicts with the American culture she grew up in. For instance, she is officially an adult, being over 18. But her parents argue adulthood starts after the "third ritual" at... 26! In the folkloric beliefs of her parents, Clara can't distinguish the cultural and the weird. They talk about rituals, lucky charms and creatures in dreams; something Clara can't conciliate with her down to Earth activism.
I also loved how Aztec mythology slowly creeps in, swallowing Clara as if she was sinking in quicksand. The horror and the fantastic are well balanced, leaving you hungry for more details about the Aztec underworld and Clara's story.
I have never read anything like this before. It's really refreshing to be plunged deep into a lore I'm unfamiliar with. Everything smells, tastes, sounds different, you go in with no expectations, and every page is a discovery. The end, without being spoilery, feels like one of those (if I can quote my favorite cheesy time travel movie Millennium for a second) "This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning" kind of endings.
This was also a lot more terrifying than I imagined it would be, which is always a good thing for me. :) -
When Clara was 13, she was supposed to find her tonal, (an animal or symbol) on a dream journey. She didn't. But she brought something else back, something sinister. Years later when she's 19 she's involved in the Millennium Riot in Chicago, which catapults her on a perilous journey. Armed with determination and her younger brother, she is lured deeper and deeper into another world where monsters and creatures are both beautiful and deadly. Clara vows to find her tonal to keep back the darkness which threatens to destroy her and her family.
Torres has such a command of a sultry and dark language that lured me in from beginning to end. I highly recommend!