Bernardez’s debut thriller follows a teen tracking giant monkey-eating eagles in the Philippines who must brave the elements when stranded in the mountains.
A typhoon all but destroys a Santa Teresa research facility in 1972, exposing wild animals to chemical reagents and enzymes. Monkey-eating eagles, having increased in size and aggression, attack livestock, forcing local hunters to drive the eagles out of town. The predators make a nest in San Antonio’s Caraballo Mountains, where biology student Marco Vega spots one in flight. A fascinated Marco heads to the mountains to find the eagle, bringing along his horse, Aladdin, and German shepherd, Gizmo. He runs into various adventurers and criminals, from treasure hunters seeking a World War II Japanese general’s fortune to drug traffickers on a marijuana farm. One of those groups, unappreciative of Marco’s presence, chases him until the teen ducks into an abandoned tunnel. Though he seems to have evaded his pursuers, Marco’s unprepared for his next mishap after trying to establish a “friendly alliance” with the eagles. As his worried family searches for him, Marco hopes to stave off hunger and thirst while befriending the predators. The author develops his protagonist before the journey even begins—Marco is a skilled martial artist and starts his summer break by getting lost camping with his hiking club. The giant eagles are formidable, but Bernardez opts to cast them as majestic creatures. Santa Teresa Mayor Gene Salvador, for example, initiates a plan to scare the eagles, stressing they not be killed. And animal lovers need not fret: there’s no lingering on eagle attacks. Dialogue is well-integrated into action scenes, especially during the search for Marco. But it’s clunky during quieter moments: Amanda, in flashback, tells hubby-to-be, “I’m so much in love with you…and it’s quite manifested by my actions when I’m by your side.”
Delivers a clear environmental message but is first and foremost a solid suspense novel.