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Review “The Red Casket”

Title: The Red Casket | Author: Darby Karchut | Series: Del Toro Tales #2 | Publisher: Owl Hollow Press | Genre: Middlegrade | 260 pages

After reading “Del Toro Moon” earlier this year, I was curious about the sequel and bought it for my little summer holiday off. It was a good choice, a perfect read for the few sunny hours I got on my terrace and a great use of my time.

For four hundred years, generations of the Family Del Toro and their battle-savvy warhorses have secretly guarded their corner of Colorado from all things creepy. But when a menacing woman with some wicked witch powers shows up at the Del Toro ranch and demands the return of the Red Casket, twelve year old Matt Del Toro must team up with his best friend Perry—along with the warhorses Rigo and Isabel—to out-wit, out-ride, and out-fight one Viking-size sorceress.

The second book starts out about two months after the events of the first book. Things have calmed down, the skinners are all locked up in the coffer and the patrols mostly consist of chasing off treasure hunters. Ben and Javier are still arguing all the time and Matt and Rigo have bonded. So everything is kinda good for the Del Toros until a bruja – a witch – is showing up on their doorstep wanting the Red Casket that the Del Toros are protecting for herself. And since that’s not an option, the family has to ready themselves for a fight…

There are a lot of things the main character Matt has to deal with, but I think his friendship with the new warhorse Rigo was my favorite. Matt is clearly still not over what happened with El Cid and it shaped his thoughts and actions but he definitely cares about Rigo and their talks was something I really enjoyed.

I really like Matt as a main character. He is not really experienced, he is scared and some of the things he does are done with the best intentions but not really thought through which is actually one of the things that made him seem so real, like a real boy somewhere in the South-West of America, trying to live up to the expectations others place on him.

As aforementioned, there are a lot of things that Matt has to deal with in this book and just like in the first book, I’m astounded how great the author is at making me feel things.
There are so many occasions where I felt so strongly for Matt, his anger or helplessness or fear or the unfairness of it all – I absolutely loved that.

The whole story in itself is solid, with a great new monstrous threat that the family has to deal with as well as the challenges that comes with everyday family life. The arguments between Ben and Javier, family secrets, grief about passed away family members, the future and on top of all that the witch – it all fit together nicely and I loved following the story and the characters. It’s not like this is a huge narrative, no. It’s more like a small story that still has an important feel to it, like an adventure that has to be told even though it’s so small.

Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was that at some point the whole Girls-can-do-everything-boys-can-do thing that Izzy and Perry had going on got a little annoying. It’s not like anybody was tantalizing and telling them that they couldn’t join them on their hunt because they weren’t good enough or because they are girls – it was just that Perry had no training at all compared to the Del Toro boys who fought monsters all their life. (Matt might not be as experienced but he knows about the craft.) You wouldn’t put an untrained civilian in a war zone deliberately either. So their moaning about how they wanted to be included got old rather fast for me. I understand that Izzy – who is a bred and trained war horse – would not want to miss out on the action and on what she was trained to do but it just seemed so stubborn and kind of irritating to me.

All in all, I really love “The Red Casket” as well and I would totally recommend the books if you’re up for an adventure with a lot of heart. “The Red Casket” was a worthy successor and I’m already waiting hard for the next book since the story ended on a bit of a cliffhanger.

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