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The Way to Rio Luna

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Eleven-year-old Danny Monteverde believes in magic. He knows that pixie dust is real, that wardrobes act as portals, and that rabbit holes lead to Wonderland. Most of all, he believes that his older sister, Pili, is waiting for him somewhere in Rio Luna, the enchanted land in their favorite book of fairy tales.

Danny doesn't care what the adults say. He knows that Pili isn't another teen runaway. When the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, she promised that she'd come back for him, and they'd build a new life together in Rio Luna.

Yet as the years pass, Danny's faith begins to dim. But just when he thinks it might be time to put foolish fairy tales behind him, he finds a mysterious book in the library. It's a collection of stories that contain hints about how to reach another world. A map to Rio Luna . . . and to Pili.

As his adventure takes him from New York to Ecuador to Brazil, Danny learns that meeting your favorite characters isn't always a dream come true. But nothing will stop him from finding his sister . . . even if it means standing up to the greatest threat the magical realm has ever known.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published June 2, 2020

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About the author

Zoraida Córdova

35 books3,961 followers
Zoraida Córdova is the author of many fantasy novels for kids and teens, including the award-winning Brooklyn Brujas series, Incendiary, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: A Crash of Fate. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark, Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old. Her debut middle grade novel is The Way to Rio Luna. She is the co-host of the podcast Deadline City with Dhonielle Clayton. Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she’s planning a new adventure.

NOTE: Direct messages on this account may not be seen. Send her an email at zoraidabooks@gmail.com

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,977 reviews3,296 followers
April 11, 2022
The Way to Rio Luna is a Middle Grade fantasy novel about family, friendship, and the magic of storytelling. It follows a boy in foster care whose big sister ran away, but he is convinced she is waiting for him in the magical land of Rio Luna from the story book she used to read to him. He will do anything to find her.

There is a lot to like here, lots of magic, adventure, and finding people who really care about you. That said, the first half of the book really drags and then the second half flies past. I wish we had gotten into the interesting action more quickly. And for a book with a magical alternate world, it would have been nice to spend more than a few pages in that world! (though the global traveling was still cool). Note that this reads like the start to the series, but so far it doesn't look like we're getting more books. Which makes the ending only semi-satisfying.

Overall, a mixed bag but still worth a look and with great Latinx representation! I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
279 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2020
I wanted more out of this. I picked it up on a whim from the library and when I read the description I thought it would be incredible. It checked all my boxes. Magic, kids, magical book, adventure? YES. But it disappointed me. It felt very surface level? I wanted it to go deeper and be a deeper story. It felt very one dimensional and like it followed a very strict middle grade adventure structure. I’m taking a Fairy Tale & Folktale class right now so maybe that has something to do with it, but it lacked magic and feeling.

Danny was precious and I did like him for most of it, but near the end I was just annoyed with him. He was very repetitive. I hated that Glory was named Glory, though she was a perfectly fine character. I didn’t see the twist coming (I almost never do) but I’m not sure if that means I’m just dumb ahahaha.

Honestly I had a hard time following what was happening in the story. Things would change without being said and I’d have to go back and read it more than once to know what was going on/had happened. It took me out of the story a lot. It felt rather jumbled, and keeping everything straight felt difficult, but I’m not sure if that was the book or me/the world we live in right now. 🤷🏼‍♀️

I did find two errors within the same chapter, one said “father” when I think it meant faster, and then an extra word in a sentence. I hate finding and seeing those in professionally published works.

Also, Danny and Pili’s reunion had absolutely no emotion to it. This is an example of things happening without being said that was confusing. Danny sees Pili from far away and thinking about what he’s gonna say to her and then the next sentence is him saying something, and it’s like wait when did she get to be right in front of him? That was never stated but it’s been set up like you’ll read that happen and it doesn’t and then it just jumps ahead and you’re left confused because it just takes tiny bits of time out without letting the reader know. Their reunion was just a long hug and I didn’t feel anything for/about it.

It did set itself up for a sequel but I don’t think I care enough to read it. I thought it would be wrapped up in the end, but it wasn’t, which was frustrating. Overall 3 stars feels generous, and I am really disappointed in this one. 😔
Profile Image for Ellen.
1,059 reviews6 followers
July 23, 2020
I read this because I really liked the author's YA books, but I didn't care for this one as much. I felt it was kind of sloppy. It needed a better editing job for one thing. Then you had some events and locations that to me just didn't make sense. For instance, the characters go to one South American city and meet a character that looks like, and is king of...a European vegetable? Didn't get the connection between those elements. The other parts made a bit more sense, but I just didn't get the WOW factor I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Marzie.
1,118 reviews92 followers
August 9, 2020
Popular YA author Zoraida Cordova's ( Incendiary , Brooklyn Brujas ) first foray into juvenile fiction is a book with an affecting plot. Danny Monteverde and his sister Pili are orphaned and in foster care. Shuttled from foster home to foster home, around the time Danny turns nine years old, they are separated. Pili, his older sister, goes to a group home. Danny is placed with a family that just doesn't care about much of anything. When Pili disappears from the group home, Danny is told by their social worker Mrs. Contreras that Pili must have run away. Danny's sole connection to his sister and their life together is his treasured fairy tale book, "The Way to Rio Luna" by Ella St. Clair. It's actually a rare book, as only a thousand copies were printed and the publishing house burned down, so no more could be printed. Danny takes comfort in reading the fairy tales, imagining a life in which he can slip away to Rio Luna and be magically reunited with Pili. He takes comfort that is until his odious foster father Mr. Finnegan tosses the book in the trash and informs him that it's "for his own good," which it's so obviously not. After several further foster family sorrows and a few years without Pili, Danny goes on a magical school field trip to the New York Public Library where, lo and behold, he finds an original copy (with her handwriting!) of Ella St. Clair's beloved "The Way to Rio Luna" with the help of magical golden arrows that direct him to it. When the book appears in his backpack, he doesn't know what to think. He also doesn't know what to think about the girl who knows all about the book, Glory Papillon, who can see the magical fairy dust that shines for him from it. Can the book help Danny find the way to Pili? Of course, you know it will.

This was a lovely read, though I felt on the one hand that it read as a tale too young for middle graders but some of the foster family aspects might be worrisome to younger children. I'd suggest it as a good fit for grades 4-5, ages 9-10. I've seen various statements that this is first in a series (Kirkus Reviews) but haven't seen much indication that it is. These characters have a lot of charm and would likely be enjoyed by young readers in a series. The diversity expressed in the characters is a welcome aspect for parents looking for BIPOC representation independent reading books for young children. I wish Scholastic would think about an audiobook edition of the book. It would improve the accessibility for children with reading and vision challenges.

I received a paper review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews113 followers
October 26, 2020
4 stars

There is just something about magical middle-grade adventures that makes them feel so different from magical YA or adult adventures, which adds to their cozy magical atmosphere. Despite the fact that this is an adventure book wherein our characters face their share of trials and tribulations, the whole book feels like it’s bursting with joy and wonder, and reading it honestly felt like coming home. Which is weird because, for most of this book, the characters are traveling to places that are not their home. But I digress.

This book follows Danny, who is determined to find his sister, Pili, by following her to the magical land of Rio Luna. All he has to figure out now is how to get there. Cue adventure! And also a new friend!!

I loved the friendship in this book, the way I seem to love friendship in all middle-grade books. I just thought the two characters were so precious and I want to adopt both of them immediately. You know?? The focus on friendship and fighting for each other and also realizing that you’re worth fighting for… Yeah…

The plot of this was also so fun!! I love any adventure story, but this one managed to pack so many different shenanigans into it and I had so much fun reading about them! And while this is a middle grade, so standards for stakes are a bit different, it definitely managed to keep me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the story!! Plus, what an incredible twist at the end!!

I do wish we had gotten to see the world developed a bit more, but I hope that we get to see that in future installments, since the ending very much implies that there’ll be a sequel… Or maybe it was just an open ending and I’m reading too much into things, as I do gkdhfgf. I just want more fun adventures with the gang!!

If you’re looking for a middle grade to make you want to cuddle up with a blanket and a warm beverage, I feel like this is definitely the way to go! Absolutely cannot recommend it enough!
Profile Image for Brandee.
110 reviews18 followers
August 1, 2020
Enchanting and magical and wonderful and full of hope. This was exactly the adventure I needed. I highly recommend Danny and Pili’s story and hope there are many more tales for them and Glory!
240 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2020
First let me state that I have never had the privilege of reading other books by Zoraida Cordova. That can seem uninformed to me, but it is also freeing in that I am not looking for a reunion with the author.

As a former children’s librarian my greatest joy was finding books to put in the hands of 5th and 6th graders, such a tough audience! If these students were reluctant readers they need instant action and engaging characters! If they are advanced readers they need books that are emotionally and topically at level as well as having challenging multilevel characters and plotting.

This book I could unequivocally recommend to that middle grade demographic.

Things I loved:

*Danny and his challenges in both a magical quest and in his very human life full of angst and growth.

*Glory as a new best friend, nice easy friendship between a girl and boy with respect to both.

*Llewelyn...wow! You read and find out about His Royal Highness...

*Fairy tale structure and references combined with portals and high adventures.

Things I did not like:

*The failures of the foster care system, the sadness in seeing adults who are not fully working on the welfare of children. This introduction to Danny’s insecurities and pain near the first of the book was heavy but it never became the sole purpose of the book, which in a way made it more powerful. His lack of nurturing and parental care made the growth and adventures he undertook even more heroic. It also made his loyalty to his sister a beautiful “love story” of sibling bonds.

I am totally hoping there will be a sequel as I have several ponderings about what is next. However it was not unsatisfying as a stand alone novel. (Hard balancing act well executed.)

It is my plan to read more of Zoraida Cordova’s writings while delighting in an author who can write a variety of reading adventures at a spectrum of reading levels.

Thank you Scholastic Books for the review copy which is going into the hands of a bright eager reader who would not be able to purchase it.

Kudos Ms. Cordova!!!

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tammie.
788 reviews
August 16, 2020
Read- August 2020 for the N.E.W.Ts (My A in Transfiguration- Animal on the cover)
- I haven't had the best experience with Zoraida Cordova as an author (I've been trying to get through Incendiary for months) so I was a bit nervous going into this book because I didn't know how I would feel about it but I ended up actually enjoying it.

Siblings Danny and Pili have been in the foster care system for years. Always being passed from group home to group home, family to family, group home to family and back to group home. There have been together their whole lives but Danny is sent to live with a family by himself and whilst he is there Pili leaves the group home and can't be found. Everyone keeps telling him that she is a runaway but he doesn't believe it, he knows that Pili is waiting for him in Rio Luna. The island from their favourite stories.

He believes in the magic for years but he has started to give up hope. His faith is dimming. He goes on a school trip to a library and just as he is beginning to lose hope he discovers a mysterious book that leads him on a magical journey, one that might take him back to his sister.
Profile Image for Mary Standard.
163 reviews19 followers
August 9, 2020
This book is quite an adventure story. The tale follows Danny Monteverde as he tries to find his long lost sister, Pili. Danny has about the worst luck of any young boy you might come across. But luck comes his way and he finds a new friend in a huge library. Glory, his new friend joins with him in his magical journey to find Pili.
6,940 reviews26 followers
May 6, 2020
I received an electronic ARC from Scholastic Press through NetGalley.
Fairy tales have a way of being true if you believe in the magic. Danny clung to this through all the foster family placements in the two years since his sister disappeared. He continued to believe in magic and that he would find Pila in Rio Luna. On a field trip to the New York library. he discovers the original copy of the only book he ever owned. Magic arrows lead him there and he meets someone who will become his best friend. Together with her aunt, they will embark on four quests to obtain the keys and enter Rio Luna to rescue his sister and defeat the Shadow Queen. Along the journey, they meet Prince LLewelyn, jackalope of the Red Moon kingdom who joins their quest. However, one of the characters is not who they pretend to be and Danny must make difficult choices to continue to believe in himself and the magic. As expected, good wins over evil in the end but it's only a temporary reprieve. The ending is an excellent set up for another book.
Cordova captures the magic for upper elementary readers. She spins a tale of magic, friendship and believing in yourself.
Profile Image for Cande.
1,030 reviews179 followers
January 30, 2021
This was whimsical and delightful but it lacked something for me to fully love it. Maybe it was the writing, it tries really hard to be a fairy tale and it didn't work for me. Ultimately, I did have a good time but it's not a memorable story, to be honest.
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books478 followers
Want to read
July 21, 2020
this kid sounds like me at that age, wholeheartedly believing in magic and chasing after any sign or scrap of it
Profile Image for Amanda.
3,621 reviews30 followers
January 12, 2021
3 1/2 stars

Trigger warnings: previous death of parents (discussed but not shown in book; representation of the foster care system, some negative & some positive; some bullying and violence against children; a child's word is not believed even when they are telling the truth)

I have been reading this off and on for so very long that I am a bit disappointed in myself. This book had many great talking points that make me very happy: worlds within words; a library with magic; travel; talking animals; quests, and magic in general! The premise was exciting though it took a bit in the beginning of the story, to get going (if the author made Danny close his eyes and count to ten and say ONE more time that there was no such thing as magic, I was going to toss the book!), but the story finally did.

Danny was a very empathetic character. He cares about reading and books. For boys who aren't into sports, it's good to have a character they might relate to and identify with. I loved how Danny grew and encouraged others throughout the book. Having a jackalope as a side character was a bonus! I cheered for Glory as well, and her sense of style. Who wouldn't want to live in a house like that or with a closet like that?

Bits and pieces jumped out at me though and made me stop in my tracks while reading. Sometimes the clothes were so wonderfully vivid in their descriptions that they read more like costumes, and I fell out of the story trying to picture them.

I fell out of the story at the end because I figured out where the plot was going and what was going to happen. *sigh* That's okay, too. I do want to read the second book when it comes out. I'm hoping certain things happen, but if they don't, that will be all right. A good recommendation for those who love fantasy.
15 reviews
January 21, 2023
Danny Monteverde is an orphan in foster care. He and his sister, Pili, would read a fantasy book about Rio Luna all the time, promising to go there together, but then the foster care system separates them and Pili disappears. As Danny begins to lose hope that Rio Luna is real, he meets a girl named Glory who has the original copy of the book. The book is infused with magic and sends Danny on a quest to obtain four keys around the world to enter Rio Luna.

The first third of the book focuses on Danny's life in foster care which (big surprise) is terrible. To the author's credit, I get the feeling she understands the foster care system & the story does dive into the toll that being bounced around and neglected takes on a kid - but it's still kinda annoying to never see a good representation of foster families! Since the foster care stuff is dropped after the 1st act, it ends up feeling more like a plot device than something the author wanted to explore, which also makes it annoying that it's leaning so heavily into negative stereotypes.

The rest of the story is about finding the keys with Glory. They go to several locations (Columbia, Brazil, and Ireland), but honestly none of the locations feel distinct. The task of finding each key gets repetitive as each problem is solved quickly and without much issue. For instance - you'd think flying two kids - one of whom is a runaway with an Amber Alert on him - across the world would be a challenge but it's not at all.

As for the characters, Danny and Glory are ok, but nothing stands out too much about them. We also get another character halfway through who is utterly obnoxious and insufferable, but I probably would have found him funny as a middle schooler. The best parts of the story are the cultural aspects and the way magic is integrated - the author strikes a good balance with explaining the magic but leaving most of it to the imagination.

I'd have liked if there could have been less time on the foster care stuff and more on the adventure because that's what the story is about. As is, the magical adventure wasn't as fleshed out as it should have been, which was a disappointment because the story itself was pretty good.
Profile Image for Jessica Higgins.
1,165 reviews13 followers
January 27, 2021
A fantastic, fun adventure for middle grade readers that will let them travel across the world as they fly through the pages.

Danny Monteverde has always believed in magic and even as he ages, he still believes. The books and stories he read with his sister, Pili, helped show him how amazing pixie dust and rabbit holes can be. Pili disappeared two years ago, and Danny has searched for her. He now believes she is waiting for him in Rio Luna, the enchanted land from their favorite fairy tales. Danny has spent most of his life in foster homes and knows there must be someone that wants him, his sister. Years pass and Danny starts to doubt she will come for him and he’s been silly to believe in fairy tales all these years. When he finds his favorite book in a library, he also finds a map to Rio Luna and hopefully his sister. The map takes him all around the world and he will stop at nothing to find his sister.

The Way to Rio Luna is a fun magical adventure for middle grade readers. Danny is a great main character that you can’t help but want to root for and see succeed in his quest to find his sister. Each day he must stay with the foster family, and you see how harsh they treat him, which makes it even more important that he finds his sister, the one person that actually cares for him. Even when he is at his lowest, he knows that Pili is out there and he will find a way to get to her. The story moved quickly and was full of adventure, action, suspense and all written at the appropriate level for its intended readers. My only complaint would be a few mature themes, toward the end with one character I felt could have been left out. Most likely younger readers won’t realize what is being said but as a mother I felt it didn’t need to be included. Other than that, I highly recommend this to middle grade readers for a fun adventure they will breeze through and enjoy from beginning to end.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13k reviews268 followers
November 29, 2020
Despite all odds, eleven-year-old Danny Monteverde is a believer. He and his beloved older sister, Pili, have stuck together through various bad experiences and foster homes, and they have loved getting lost in the magical stories of a book called The Way to Rio Luna. But when they are separated, Pili disappears, and Danny is told that she must have run away. He knows this can't be true, but there are times during the next two years as he bounces through foster care and puts up with cruelty in his home that doubts creep in. But then on a field trip to the New York Public Library, Danny sees a copy of the book he and his sister loved so much, and the book comes to him. From there, he takes off on a quest to find his sister and to help his new friend, Glory. The author's love for books and magic and lively imagination are on display as Danny never gives up, even when the odds seem stacked against him. The strong message of believing in oneself as well as the power that others' beliefs in someone can have is an important one for young readers who will surely wonder what happens next to these characters.
Profile Image for Kristin.
162 reviews11 followers
October 7, 2020
This new middle grade chapter book is touching, adventurous, and magical. THE WAY TO RIO LUNA by Zoraida Córdova is a quick read with well-developed main characters and a solid amount of world building. Friendships, perseverance, finding support in times of despair, and belief in hope and magic combine to create an adventure that is fantastical but keeps its feet on the ground. Readers who love fairy tales and adventure books (Narnia and Neverland are both referenced) will find themselves immersed in a modern day journey into magical realms.

Full review: https://mutterschwester.wordpress.com...
451 reviews
November 23, 2020
I loved the main characters in this original and fun fantasy. Danny is a wonderful boy with the belief of magic always in his heart. When his sister goes missing he is sure she is in the story book land of Rio Luna. The author writes better in the realistic genre as there were some elements of the fantasy story that had gaps.
Profile Image for Alexandra Alessandri.
Author 5 books79 followers
October 13, 2020
My 12-year-old really enjoyed THE WAY TO RIO LUNA! He's particularly drawn to magic and adventure, and this book didn't disappoint. He read it quickly, and asked immediately if there would be a sequel.
Profile Image for Jennifer Sullivan.
310 reviews17 followers
November 23, 2020
3-1/2 stars. This is a fairly typical middle-grade fantasy-adventure story. Lots of magic, boy trying to find his sister, battle of good vs evil, light vs. dark. The ending leaves a lot unfinished, so I'm thinking this will be a series. A solid pick for ages 8-11 who like fantasy-adventure.
10 reviews
January 28, 2021
I firmly believe that the book should improve since I lost too much in the story and I reached a point where I did not understand anything, but if it is good it keeps you attentive to the story and everything that happens
Profile Image for Bridgette.
644 reviews12 followers
January 29, 2022
Really torn on a rating. More like 3.5 stars.

It started out AMAZING, but felt like it lost a little steam as it went on, especially in the climax. I also expected there to be quite a bit more at the end as it just ended. Still, it's worth a read and I'll read the sequel if there is one.
Profile Image for Jamie.
639 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2020
It was a pretty gripping story, but there were typos and (without getting into spoilers) some of the character portrayals were troubling.
Profile Image for The Marvelous Ms. Kaia.
334 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2020
The book itself was great but their better be a sequel. I loathe authors that leave books on a large cliffhanger as that is just cheating. 12+
Profile Image for Mikayla.
31 reviews
November 19, 2020
This is a cute little adventure. I'll probably read book 2...as I do expect and hope there is to be a book 2.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews

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