Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl

by Julie Kagawa

So Shinji Takahashi is an orphan who lives with his Aunt Yui. She homeschools him and he fills his free time by being mouthy and playing video games. He’s annoyed, wants to do “normal” kid things. Then his aunt gives him some money to get out of her hair and find something that interests him.

Enter the Coatl statue. And then three goons who are more than a little obvious about the fact they want it.

This is where the book takes off. Shinji is kidnapped by the goons, his aunt is left unconscious on her boat and he’s whisked all the way to New York. Only the statue is gone. In its place? A tattoo on his arm. And they don’t care who they have to hurt to get it.

The two kids escape and wind up at one of the buildings belonging to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers or SEA.

It’s a fast paced book with some memorable characters and Shinji’s growth is nice. He actually changes a fair amount from his state in the beginning of the book. I enjoyed the characters for the most part but there were so many in SEA that not all of them got enough time to shine and really jump off the page.

When it comes to Shinji and Lucy’s friendship, there’s a big problem where trustworthiness comes up. And I felt like maybe it was wrapped up a little quickly. It maybe could have benefitted form a little more just…more.

When it comes to the ending, it’s satisfying more or less but it also felt a little fast and easy in some parts. We get a bad guy who threatens for a while before finally doing anything and that was a bit of an eyeroll for me.

There is something in the end that will probably be a bit of a pain for older readers. It has a strong ecological, “humans are bad, look what they did to the world” bend from the bad guy. Full monologue. And while some of those things are true, just seeing it so drawn out was something that killed the pacing for me. It was like “yep, got it. humans bad.”

My other issue is it almost seemed like Shinji forgot about his Aunt Yui. He went for long stretches of time without thinking about her at all and then remembering her. “Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, my missing aunt, the only family I have left.” If she was supposed to be so important to him, it would have been nice to see him worry about her a little more.

But for what it’s worth, as a middle grade book, I give it a four (4) out of five (5).

I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to them and the publisher.


Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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