Review: How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings book cover
Image courtesy of Laura Pauling

Title:  How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

Author:  Laura Pauling

Genre:  Adventure

Back Cover:

When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed.

No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match.


I went into this book knowing it was a middle grade book about the Maya.  And since I loved Chris Eboch’s The Well of Sacrifice, which was also about the ancient Mayans, I expected to like this book, too.

And it didn’t disappoint.

I loved Bianca.  She was more of a “leap before you look” character – impulsive, headstrong, and didn’t always think things through.  (Didn’t always follow the rules, either.)  But I really didn’t mind, because I loved her takes on things and her stubborn determination to do what she thought needed done.

Melvin, I also really liked.  I’d call him a mega-nerd (so says the self-professed geek).  At first, I thought he’d get on my nerves, but he really didn’t.  Once he stopped with the know-it-all attitude, he was a really nice kid – in a really geeky kind of way.

I did enjoy the plot – which, as you might guess from the title, involved an ancient spell and a crazy king.  It also involved a crazy wannabe-king, some human sacrifices, a Mayan city, a magical jade necklace, and a semi-crazy archeologist.  Bianca and Melvin’s search for their grandfather (the semi-crazy archeologist) led them all sorts of interesting places, including the Mayan city.  And I think about half of the people they meet turned out to be untrustworthy.

I loved the fact that part (about half, maybe?) took place in an ancient Mayan city.  I’ve always been interested in ancient cultures of any kind, and I loved watching modern kids Bianca and Melvin navigate the ancient civilization.  I also liked watching the ancient Mayans react to them.

Practically the only problem I had with the book was how short it was.  Since it’s a middle grade book, I can understand it, but as a teenage reader, I wasn’t happy about it.  I wanted it to be longer, just so I could hang out with Bianca and Melvin some more.

This makes an excellent stand-alone book, but it also has the potential for an excellent series.  I kind of home Laura Pauling writes a sequel.  I certainly wouldn’t mind following these characters around for another book.

I received a free ARC of How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings from the author.  Her generosity did not influence, nor seek to influence, this review.


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