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by M.G. Velasco

Age Range: 9 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5415-5464-1
Publisher: Carolrhoda

A kid crosses the “Wild West” to track down treasure—and the father he refuses to believe is dead.

Shuffle was 7 when Dad left on a treasure-hunting expedition and was declared dead; now, in 1881, he’s 12. When a salesman arrives hawking a card game called Mythic, it’s shocking: Dad and Shuffle invented Mythic alone together, and it’s unique. This can’t be coincidence. Thus begins Shuffle’s shoot-’em-up quest for Dad that leads him from Mourning Glory, Missouri, to San Francisco—teeming with guns, bandits (including women), disguises, escapes, betrayals, and lots of blood. Plus a rail baron and a tornado. Despite dramatic narration (“The sunset bled into a dark sky”), the core here is the intricate card game, which Velasco both overdoes and underdoes. Mythic looms large in Shuffle’s thoughts, the names of its characters (“mythological heroes and monsters”) distractingly italicized; however, its implied details and layers are far too vast to let readers attack the puzzle mystery themselves or share the intensity of Shuffle’s gaming scenes. Shuffle’s white, while Mythic appropriates elements from many cultures (Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Aztec, Egyptian). There are a few characters of color; Shuffle’s primary pal has a Kaw mother but no community history or bonds, rendering her a disconnected, sage-scented Native sidekick/protector with “mythical brown eyes.”

As cool as a Western for gamers may sound, the card game at its center doesn’t offer enough engagement to pull readers in. (map) (Western. 9-13)