Every youngster wants the chance to be chosen for an incredible quest to save the world, but what if you sort of stumble into it thanks to a wacky family friend, a mysterious house, and a vacation in one of the US’s most haunted cities? Lucas and Parker Chance’s family vacation to see their ‘Aunt’ Ruby in New Orleans introduces them to Nicole “Cole” Wells and a quest to help preserve the balance between good and evil. There are clues to find, puzzles to decode, nefarious villains to evade, and, of course, more than a few beignets to enjoy in this fun YA romp that doubles as a love letter to a sultry city of the Deep South!
Marcel Feldmar’s first YA novel, Keys to the Sun, is a fun read that definitely has elements of both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, both referenced in the cover blurb. The dash of the supernatural and setting the story in New Orleans create an adventure with catnip for a wide variety of readers. Admittedly, it took me between 30 to 50 pages to really get drawn into the story, but when I did, I found myself trying to find time to read for long periods.
All three protagonists are a lot of fun, but I especially appreciated Cole’s characterization. She’s smart, resourceful, strong, and the most knowledgeable about their environment. While there is a hint of attraction between Cole and Parker, it definitely doesn’t dominate the story…and why should it when there are potential vampires and pirate treasure? She gets plenty of opportunities to explore without the boys, and she never gets treated as a lesser contributor to the entire process. Mixing the protagonists’ genders also helps make this book more accessible to a variety of young readers, since at least one of them should be relatable to almost any reader.
Feldmar obviously adores the history of New Orleans and blends it well with his mystery. While portions are obviously fiction, I could see the way he tied the real city’s background into the fantastical bits. The locale is central to the adventure, too, and the three teens experience iconic parts of New Orleans like the famous cemeteries and a jazz funeral throughout the course of the novel. Clearly, the author loves the history of the city, and the affection flows onto the page and, even if the statement is cliché, makes New Orleans another character in the plot.
The ending of Keys to the Sun may feel too open ended to some readers, but it opens the door for Parker, Lucas, and Cole to continue to have adventures. It wasn’t what I expected, but the thought of reading more tales of their sleuthing and partnership excited me. If you love mysteries, New Orleans, and epic tales of good and evil, this book probably will speak to you, and if you have a YA reader in your life who likes the same, I would definitely get them a copy!
4.5 Ancient Runes out of 5