Kaela Rivera

Author of
  • Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
    HarperCollins Children's, 2021

Kaela Rivera was raised to believe in will-o’-the-wisps and el chupacabra, but even ghost stories couldn’t stop her from reading in the isolated treetops, caves, and creeks of Tennessee’s Appalachian forests. She still believes in the folktales of her Mexican and British parents, but now she writes about them from the adventure-filled mountains of the Wild West. When she’s not crafting stories, she’s using her English degree as an editor for a marketing company (or secretly doodling her characters in the margins of her notebook). Her biggest hope is to highlight and explore the beauty of cultural differences—and how sharing those differences can bring us all closer.

Books by Kaela

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is Kaela Rivera’s debut #ownvoices MG fantasy novel. Inspired by her grandfather’s stories of growing up in early 1900s Mexico, Kaela draws on Mexican folklore and ancient legend to create a world both distinctive and familiar.

When the demon El Sombreron kidnaps her sister Huana on Noche de Muerte, Cecelia Rios trains to become a bruja – a witch who controls demon souls – in order to sneak into Devil’s Alley and rescue her sister. But to become an official bruja and join the bruja hierarchy of the demon world, Cece has to steal a demon’s soul, battle it up the ranks of the Bruja Fights, and earn her ticket into Devil’s Alley. Except brujas are the lowest beings of all, straddling the line between human and demon and ostracized for their greed and malicious power. If the policia discover she’s a bruja, she’ll be put to death and her family will disown her, not to mention this means interacting with the literal demons she’s been raised to fear.

But Huana means everything to Cece, so she summons every little bit of fire within her (even if no one else thinks it’s there) and steals the demon Coyote’s soul. Well, more like persuades him to fight alongside her. Cece uses her own soul to command his and, with each fight, learns more about his past life and complicated present. She learns to decipher the hints of grey and pink she feels swirling in his soul and as their bond grows deeper, Cece’s long-held beliefs about these creatures are cast aside. Everyone in her family and small village already thinks Cece was cursed by the demon Tzitzimitl as a child, and now she’s actually friends with demons. Her life as she’s known it is spiralling downwards fast, and even with Coyote as her unexpected ally, the risks run deep. Cece will have to overcome battles to the death, her familia’s messy history, and the feelings of inadequacy that have plagued her all her life. But no matter the odds, Cece is determined to reach Devil’s Alley and save Huana. Because when it comes to familia, failure isn’t an option.

With wit and determination, Cece sets out to prove to her family – and to herself – that she’s not as weak as they’ve always believed. In Cece, Kaela has created an honest and sincere heroine who values family and friendship above all. For fans of Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost and S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is a spunky and heartfelt debut that shows us that kindness and smarts can go a long way, but it never hurts to befriend some demons too.

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