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Book Review: Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow by James Rollins

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I’ve been a longtime fan of James Rollins’s novels. I picked up his first thriller, Subterranean, on the premise of an underground adventure at the center of the earth. I never seem to get tired of those, and Rollins made the concept his own while providing unique twists. I followed his other books into the current Sigma Force series that are consistent New York Times bestsellers.

I wasn’t too surprised to see him enter the young adult market. With his writing talent and his varied interests that are always at the core adventures, Rollins is a natural for the 9 to 12 age group. The title of his first book, Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, practically screams out for attention from young fans won over by the recent Indiana Jones movie. If you didn't know, Rollins also wrote the novelization of that movie.

Notice that James Rollins’s hero Jake Ransom shares the same initials. As you get to know this author, you’ll also learn that he shares many of the same interests as his young protagonist. I don’t know if Rollins was like Jake when he was a kid, but I suspect so. I also am pretty sure that Rollins didn't get to go to other worlds the way his young hero does. But I’m willing to bet that Rollins would have been just as eager to go as Jake Ransom.

Where Rollins generally tries to stay within the realm of somewhat possible in his adult thrillers, he discards the convention almost entirely with this first book. Jake and his sister Kady receive halves of a coin that were on necklaces. Their parents, noted archaeologists, had been missing for years. Jake and Kady haven’t given up hope that they may someday be reunited with their parents, and they’ve done everything they can to learn about the things their parents were studying when they disappeared.

Of course, the events in this book put our young heroes on to the trail of their missing parents. While visiting a museum controlled by a man I’m sure will become one of their worst enemies, Jake and Kady get transported to a strange world filled with primitive civilizations that seem gathered from different locations and different periods of history. These groups are balanced precariously against each other, maintaining a delicate peace while on guard against the Skull King, a threatening and mysterious being.

I really enjoyed the overall action and pacing of this novel, and I’m confident young, aggressive readers with adventurous hearts and plenty of curiosity will dig in and find themselves totally at home. Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow is the kind of book I would have loved to find as a kid, and I’m handing it off to my 11-year-old for his summer reading. Young readers, and adults, with an interest in science and history and breakneck adventure are going to immensely enjoy this novel and look forward to other books in the series.

Rollins had me with the dinosaurs, but he increased interest with all the magical mysteries and historical facts. I can’t wait till Jake Ransom goes on his next adventure because I’m going to be there with him.

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