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Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

4.66  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 13th 2021 by HarperCollins Children's Books
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Kaela Rivera That's a great question, Jennifer! The short answer is not yet. But I'm hopeful! I have a lot planned for Cece, Coyote, and their friends if I get the…moreThat's a great question, Jennifer! The short answer is not yet. But I'm hopeful! I have a lot planned for Cece, Coyote, and their friends if I get the chance to share more of their wild adventure. (less)

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Average rating 4.66  · 
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 ·  184 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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This is a Middle Grade fantasy. I picked this book up for the first time a couple of months ago, but I just was not in the mood for this type of book. I am so glad I did not give up on this book. I have to say I loved everything about this book, but I have to say it took me a little bit to get into this book. This book shows how strong loving someone is, and that love is more stronger then hate/angrier. I loved the characters in this book, and I loved how much Cece grow during this book. This bo ...more
Kaela Rivera
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: my-debut
I’ve hesitated to give my own book five stars, but ultimately I decided this: I put five stars worth of time into this book. I put five stars worth of love into it. I put five stars worth of effort, worth of my heart, worth of my hope and healing and desire to comfort people I may never see with the only gift I have—my words.

So I hope that all five of those stars worth of time, work, love, and joy reach you through Cece’s adventure. And it’s even okay if it doesn’t because it’s not your thing. ;
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Had the privilege of reading this early. Love the remix of Mexican-American folktales!
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade
SO MUCH FUN! Pokemon meets COCO in a spirited and moving adventure infused with Mexican American culture and Mesoamerican magic.

Y'all are going to love this book.
Toya (the reading chemist)
Apr 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Twelve year old Cece Rios must learn the forbidden bruja magic to rescue her sister Junana after she’s kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura. Cece’s parents do not approve of the brujeria, so she must secretly learn the magic. Lucky for her, she has the help of one of most infamous criatura, Coyote, but together they must race against time to save Juana.

I absolutely loved how Rivera remixed so many Latinx folklore and mythology in this story. We got to some legends such as El Somb
Aug 21, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2021-releases
August 21, 2020: Mexican folklore & ancient mythology? YES PLEASE
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most grounding and insightful works I've read in a long time. It gives perspectives on love and kindness in the perspective of the real harshness many of us have encountered. This is a book I can fill heartedly recommend to any reader. ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s easy to find contemporary retellings of the European fairy tales: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. Finding an engaging book that builds on the stories handed down in Mexico and Central America is much more difficult—at least it was until Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls was written! Rivera has brought to life some great legendary figures in El Sombrerón, El Cucuy, Tzitzimitl, La Chupacabra, and La Llorona—and she does it in a way that makes them seem frighteningly fam ...more
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I first heard what this book was about, I couldn't wait to read it. I was not disappointed! Cece Rios is a strong female character who faces down challenges with courage and heart. The fast paced adventure starts on page one and builds from there, I've no doubt it will hook young readers immediately. The rich world of the desert town Tierra del Sol is filled with fascinating aspects of Mexican mythology. I enjoyed reading about the different criaturas and the legends behind them. Cece is a ...more
4.5 Stars

CWs: References to and instances of child abuse, kidnapping, allusions to death of a grandparent, descriptions of graphic injury, scenes containing graphic violence

This is an extraordinary Latinx fantasy-adventure that's perfect for fans of the Rick Riordan Presents line and other mythological inspired fantasy stories!

Cece Rios is a story about family, community, and power, and the inherent connection between all of those things. Cece is a character who was raised to fear criaturas,
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to HarperCollins Children's Books for providing me an ARC in exchange of my honest review.

If you are searching for a book with a strong female character, CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS is perfect for you. Honestly, this is one of the best books I've read this year! You get to follow the main character, Cece, through a wonderful adventure while she's trying to save her sister. She's such a strong girl! You get to see her development through the story; not only within herself, but also w
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s, fantasy
Cece Rios think she is weak because her soul is more water than fire, setting her apart from the other residents of Tierra del Sol. When her sister is kidnapped by a criatura, one of the mythological creatures who attacks the area during the winter months, Cece knows that she will do anything she can to bring her back. Following the clues left behind in her disgraced aunt's diary, she sets out on the dangerous task to capture the soul of a criatura and become a bruja. Nothing goes as Cece plans. ...more
The Smol Moth
Aug 24, 2020 marked it as to-read
Please, future me, don't let me down! Remember to read this book!! Everything about the blurb sounds interesting and I'm praying I'll love it. ...more
Jo Parsons-Rivera
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have read this amazing and exciting book as a pre-reader. I loved it! Full of thought provoking choices, exciting and scary adventure, heart wrenching panic, and determination to succeed.
Cece (see-see) is a wonderful 12 almost 13 year old girl in a fantasy world based on early 20th century Mexico. She hasn’t as fiery a temperament as most of her people are expected to be and feels less because of it. But she eventually learns her own gifts as she ventures into uncharted waters as the novel p
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life in the desert town of Tierra del Sol is marred by the season the the criatura, when spirit creatures come to threaten the humans of the town. But Cece has a different view of the criatura after one helped her find her way home when she was younger.
Marked by the town as an outsider because of her interaction with a criatura, Cece has grown up thinking of herself as weak and all too different
But when her sister is kidnapped by a dark and powerful criatura, CeCe knows she’s the only one to s
Payal Doshi
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS was such an enjoyable read! I was immediately drawn into the landscape of Tierra del Sol and Cece Rios and her family who are threatened by criaturas who have begun to roam the desert. This book is a wonderful blend of a classic adventure story of a girl in search of her kidnapped sister and the vibrance of Mexican legend and folklore. There’s magic, brujas, and a Devil’s Alley! But at the center, this story is full of heart, courage, and kindness. I found mysel ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS is an action/adventure story with a soul. I loved the messages in Cece's story: the importance of finding your own strength, of unexpected friendships, of kindness, of family. I loved the girl power! And the beautiful legends that are central to the story made me want to learn more about Mexican folklore. I wish I could quote from this uncorrected proof, because the prose often reads like poetry. Highly recommend for middle grade readers who like action stories ...more
Ms. Yingling
Feb 09, 2021 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Cece lives in the small town of Tierra del Sol with her parents and older sister Juana. When she is young, she wanders off into the desert when she is watching a sunset with other children, and is approached by a criatura. Luckily, it is Tzitzimitl, who is a protector of human children, but she curses Cece, who is considered a bit suspicious by her family, who worry that she will become a bruja like her aunt. When her sister Juana dances in the Amenazante celebration,
Here's a quick and dirty review: I highly recommend this.

Much darker than I was expecting, based on this cover art and the classification of middle-grade. It looks like it's gonna have the same vibe as Sal and Gabi. Like Dora the explorer. That animated movie, Coco. Not at all! This is more like Harry Potter in that it is deadly serious and the stakes are very high.

There's virtually no humor here, but there is intense emotion. And there are strong themes of alienation, the importance of family
Celia McMahon
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing

I was gifted a copy of this book by HarperCollins and I cannot tell you how happy I was to get it in the mail. I've already heard some early reviews from friends on Instagram so, I knew I was getting into something good.

Cece once saved a criatura from capture, and because of it the town of Tierra del Sol gives her a wide berth. When her sister is kidnapped by one of the strongest criaturas, Cece is determined to prove her worth to the town and get her back. But entering Devil'
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Cece and her family live in the small desert community of Tierra de Sol. She hasn't fit in since her encounter with the criatura, Tzitzimitl, who many believe cursed her when she was seven. Now that her older sister, Juana, has been invited to do the Amenazante dance on Noche de Muerte to scare away the powerful spirits who threaten her community during the criatura months, Cece doesn't think she'll ever be able to prove herself a
Jennifer Sullivan
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
4-1/2 stars!

This is a great middle-grade fantasy-adventure novel loosely based on several Latinx/indigenous mythologies from Central and South American cultures, similar to the novels in the "Rick Riordan presents" series that are loosely based on mythologies from various cultures and written by own voices.

Cecelia Rios has always been a little different from the rest of her community. She does not have their same fear and hatred of the Criaturas of the desert, and has no desire to see them hunt
Nicole Lesperance
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book has one of the most unique fantasy settings I've ever read. Cece's family lives in a magical town where the inhabitants must fend off strange and dangerous criaturas from the desert with their fire magic. But Cece has a water soul and is somewhat of an outcast as a result. When her sister is kidnapped, Cece must work together with the criaturas to rescue her, and along the way she is constantly tested, given the choice to do a brutal thing or somehow figure out how to do a kind thing i ...more
Kate Foster
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wowzer! Just wowzer! This book could now be one of my top ten MG reads ever. It's the perfect blend of smart, creepy, exciting and emotional. I was immersed from the opening pages and more and more invested with every turn of the page. Pure brilliance! Loved it! ...more
Katie Reilley
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
On behalf of #bookexpedition, thank you very much to the author & Harper Kids for sharing an early copy with our group.

Cece Rios lives with her family in the remote desert town of Tierra del Sol. Believed to have been cursed by Tziitzimitl when she was just seven, Cece fears she is nothing like her beautiful, brave, and beloved older sister, Juana. But when Juana is kidnapped by a powerful dark criatura, Cece will stop at nothing to get her back, even if it means going against everything her fa
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was so much fun! I love the friendships that Cece formed with Coyote and the other criaturas she encountered. Beyond being a compelling story that kept me flipping pages, I admired that Cece continually chose the path of kindness when confronted with hard choices. Kaela Rivera's writing was entrancing and I look forward to more books by this author.

Thank you to the author and the publisher for an advanced copy of this novel.
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-releases
This review was originally on my blog at


Cece Rios and the Desert of Lost Souls is about Cece Rios, a girl cursed with a soul of water, and how her sister is stolen away by the criatura El Sombrerón, the bride stealer. Cece has grown up knowing that criaturas were bad, and that brujas, the enslavers of criaturas, were even worse, but Cece might have to become a bruja to save her sister. Will her cursed soul hold her back when it matte
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is an engaging #ownvoices story that will appeal to children who like fantasy/magic stories.

Cece Rios lives with her family's and community's disapproval for helping a criatura. When her sister is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a different criatura, Cece leaves her home to bring her back.

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You will love Cece and be rooting for as she works to find her sister who was stolen by mythical creature. Cece is challenged to become a bruja, witch, to win her back. This book is action packed and emotion filled the entire way through. I loved the desert setting and it's cultural details. Fans of scary books will appreciate it to. Refreshing and new! ...more
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is an engaging, adventurous, and heartfelt story about a girl who lives in a village haunted by fear and traditions—they must fight brujas (witches) who steal souls, and criaturas (creatures) and dark spirits that prey on the people. When 12-year old Cece accidentally gets her older sister stolen by El Sombrerón, she decides to fight fire with fire and become a bruja to rescue her sister. She has to learn how to control the souls of criaturas and win bruja fight ...more
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