A Tall Dark Trouble

Zando. Aug. 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781638930129.
Gr 9 Up–The heart of this novel is the relationship between two sisters who overcome evil. Two plots twine through the text: Anita’s expulsion from Cuba at the Port of Mariel in April of 1980, and the story of twins Delfi and Lela awakening to their magic as the clock winds down to the death of Fidel Castrol in November 2016. Montalban writes about Cuba, but el Comandante never appears in the text. Rather, it is the work of the enablers that the author unravels, for no dictator can rule without them. Montalban brings this political history to readers through the vehicles of horror and fantasy. Powerful brujos prop up el Comandante, and for the brujos to hold onto his tangent power, generational sacrifice is expected. Another layer of text addresses the culture surrounding santería. Mama Ortí manipulates the magia del alma with santería, and her corrupt intentions breed a dark setting. What is a beautiful cultural legacy becomes a tool of destruction in her hands. The climax of the novel allows for swift genre shapeshifting: horror and fantasy become a fast-paced thriller with boat chases, explosions, and a rescue at sea. The twins have created their own circle of power, and their pure intentions, along with their strength in numbers, bring a close to the long and evil tentacles of the Orden de las Palomas. Readers will ugly cry for all that Anita loses, and then cheer for Delfi and Lela as they conquer both internal and external crises.
VERDICT Hand to YA readers who enjoy their history told with an abundant dose of horror.

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