Welcome back to another Coffee, Book, and Candle review! We were recently approached by Laura at Scandal Co-Active with an opportunity to review book one of Camilo Moncada Lozano's Codex Black series, A Fire Among Clouds.
But that's not all—Laura also provided a sneak peek for you all, which can be found at the end of this review. So without further ado...
Genre: Middle-Grade Historical Fantasy / Graphic Novel
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 4/5 Stars
Plot: 4/5 stars
Characters: 4/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
Donají is a fearless Zapotec girl who, even though she’s only fifteen, is heralded as a hero by her village. In Codex Black, Donají sets out on an adventure—accompanied by the god that lives inside of her poncho—to find her missing father. Along the way, she meets a 17-year-old winged Mexica warrior named Itzcacalotl, and over time their temporary partnership blooms into an incredible friendship. The search brings the young pair closer to danger and deeper into mystery than either could have predicted. What exactly was Donají’s father involved with? And how did a simple search for a missing relative lead Donají and Itzcacalotl into a fight with a terrifying bat monster to defend an entire village?
Donaji has long awaited her fifteenth birthday, but she's not interested in celebrating. Finally able to leave her small village on a quest to find her father, she's wasting no time. With gifts and blessings from the villagers and Chicahualizteotl—the god/parental figure inhabiting her poncho—Donaji sets off to her father's last known location.
Itzcacalotl is a seventeen-year-old rookie warrior. While volunteering on an expedition, he is separated from his caravan and trapped in the belly of a mountain. Abandoned by his allies, he spends several days alone until a mysterious being appears and Itzcacalotl grows black wings, allowing him to fly to freedom.
After a chance encounter, the two stumble upon the city of Cacalotepec. Here, they learn about a crow god—who seems to be the entity that saved Itzcacalotl—before defending the town from a monster. The two realize they make a good team and set out to continue the search for Donaji's father.
But it's not all smooth sailing. Donaji and Itzcacalotl run into a number of obstacles: dead ends, new questions, deities, and thieves.
I had fun following Donaji and Itzcacalotl on their journey, watching them become friends and fight enemies and inner demons alike. I will be keeping an eye out for the next installment when it comes; I know it's going to be awesome.
The main characters in this series are very likable, with their own quirks and flaws.
Donaji is brave, determined, and confident. But she can be hotheaded. Underneath it all, she carries a secret burden and self doubt that she must overcome.
"It's not that I don't feel fear...but there's no way I'll let that stop me!"
Chicahualizteotl is just as fiery as Donaji. He's protective of her—with Mother Hen vibes—and does not initially take to Itzcacalotl. He also provides some comedic relief when things get serious.
Itzcacalotl has tons of enthusiasm, a passion for art and fashion, and a love of crows. He's selfless, considerate, thoughtful, and humble. Watching him adapt to his new wings was funny. He's absolutely adorable, and I felt angry with his people for treating him poorly and leaving him alone in life.
"I'll help you find your father.
I have never felt as alive as I do now that I've met you."
Quite a few minor characters are introduced in this installment that I have no doubt we'll see again. My favorite was Citlalmina, a thief with a mysterious past that I would love to know more about. I also liked Donaji's mom. She's caring, supportive, wise, and obviously where Donaji got her fire from!
"Don't pick fights with everybody who thinks differently from you. There will be those who in your eyes might be completely wrong, but remember that you might actually be the one mistaken. Even so, guide yourself by what you feel is right, and don't abandon those who have put their trust in you. Surround yourself with friends, but beware the imposters. Wherever you go, you'll surely meet different people. Try to always leave your best impression with your smile. If you find someone you can trust your life to, don't let them go––your great courage and passion may be your biggest virtues, but if you let anger get the best of you, you'll end up alone."
Codex Black takes place in 15th century Mesoamerica, spanning mountains, jungles, and cities. The world is vibrant (and not just from the colorful artwork) and full of magic and mythology. I love the supernatural element to this story and how downright scary the villainous gods can be. I look forward to learning more about this series and its magic system.
One thing I really loved was how the author included footnotes explaining certain phrases throughout the story. No need to stop reading for internet searches!
Lozano also includes a glossary and pronunciation guide, as well as a primer on the region’s history at the end of the story. I would highly recommend reading this section, as it helps the reader fully understand and immerse themselves in this world. Also included is the author’s explanation of how this story came to be, which was fun to read about.
A Fire Among Clouds is an excellent introduction to the Codex Black series. The artwork is beautiful and vivid; the story is fast-paced and fun, with humor and mystery; the characters are adorable and interesting; and the world is magical. If you're a fan of mythology-inspired stories like the Riordanverse, you will enjoy this graphic novel. I would also recommend it for anyone in a reading slump.