Harley James and the Mystery of the Mayan Kings
by Leah Cupps
GENRE: Children’s Middle Grade
Amateur cryptologist Harley James has just landed in the sticky jungle of Tikal, Guatemala—home to the famous Mayan ruins. She’s made a few friends, a few mistakes…and a ground-breaking discovery.
The legendary statue of the long-lost Mayan King.
Just as she is about to impress her father with her discovery, the statue is stolen. Right from her own room!
And what’s worse? The legend says if the statues of the three kings are reunited, they’ll bring back an army from the dead to rule the world.
Follow along with Harley as she tracks down the missing Mayan statue, solves a few riddles and stumbles upon a secret society that will change her life forever!
Around 1600 Years Ago in Tikal, Guatemala
Eloy tucked the statue under his arm, tightening his grip as he stumbled forward into the jungle. He could hear the cries of the battle for Tikal behind him and feel the heat from the buildings burning under the pale moon. The statue was vibrating against his bare skin, the green glow around it beating to its own rhythm.
Three thoughts tumbled through his mind…
It was the final night of the 400-year Baktun cycle.
The Three Kings, Jasaw, Yax K’uk, and Jacinto, were dethroned.
The last of their loyalists were being exiled.
Earlier that night, the elders told him that when the Three Kings were defeated, a powerful magic had captured their souls. The priests then cast a spell and locked those souls inside three jade statues.
Separated, the statues were useless stone relics.
If the statues were reunited on the Eve of the thirteenth Baktun, the Three Kings would return. And in their revenge, they would bring an army of the dead to rule the world.
Eloy, a clever young boy of just eleven years old, had been charged with hiding one of the magical statues. He shuddered for a moment, thinking of what was hidden inside. The statue glowed in his arms, and he felt his feet move a bit quicker, knowing that the cover of night wouldn’t last for long.
“Run,” his mother had warned him. Her eyes had been bright with fear, her voice quaking as she spoke. She brushed a tuft of black hair from his eyes. “Run, my son, and don’t look back.”
“I will, Mama,” he replied. He willed his knees to stop shaking as he spoke. His mama must not know he was scared.
And now he ran. The elders had told him of an ancient temple hidden in the jungle just a few miles from Tikal. Older than the Temple of the Jaguar. There, he would hide the cursed little statue; hidden forever inside, and perhaps he along with it.
He volunteered to make this sacrifice. For the liberation of Tikal. For the protection of the world from the wickedness of the Three Kings.
Shouts emerged from behind him. He pushed his legs harder. His lungs burned as hot as the city in flames behind him.
The loyalists were gaining on him.
When he saw what was just ahead of him, he smiled. They were too late. The temple was just a few more steps away. And once he was inside, the statue would be hidden forever.
In a place where no one would ever find it.
Unless, of course, they were good at solving riddles.
Leah Cupps on
WHAT SHE LOVES MOST ABOUT WRITING MIDDLE GRADE FICTION?
Middle grade fiction is a special arena, because you are capturing an audience that still has the imagination of a young child, but also has an interest in history.
Around the age of ten, is when I personally became interested in the ancient history. Indiana Jones was all the rage, and I was a huge fan. Raiding tombs, discovering the mysteries of the ancients, mystical powers…my young heart was full of adventure. And that’s my story. But real inspiration for Harley James, was my 9-year-old daughter Savannah.
My 9-year-old daughter Savannah was the inspiration behind Harley James. In the summer of 2021, Savannah was watching a documentary series on National Geographic about a lost Mayan city. When I saw her engaged in the story of the Maya, I had an idea. What if we wrote an adventure story together that took place in the famous city of Tikal?
Being an avid mystery thriller reader, I had never considered writing for a younger audience. I had even outlined a book for a female version of that character as an adult. But when I sat down and thought about creating a younger version of this character, it made sense.
The rest is history. After some back and forth banter, we came up with the character of Harley James. Savannah even helped come up with some of the plot points for the book.
Harley also has some special skills. She is an amateur cryptologist, or someone who excels at solving riddles and decoding messages. I love this idea of incorporating riddles into the story, because it engages kids beyond just reading the words…they have to solve the puzzles, too. Who doesn’t love solving a good mystery?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Leah Cupps is an author, designer and entrepreneur. She came up with the idea for Harley James with her oldest daughter Savannah. Savannah had taken an interest in Mayan history and so the two of them worked together to come up with the idea for the first Harley James book; the Mystery of the Mayan Kings.
Leah lives in Indiana with her husband and three children. She is also the cofounder of Vision Forty Press, a small family owned publishing company.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09XGWL688
Author website: https://harleyjamesadventures.com
Author social media links
Leah Cupps will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.