'Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls' Readalong: Chapters 1 - 15

By: Shanleigh Klassen

"I was named to see into the souls of children. And this day, I tell you, Cece Rios, that you have been blessed with a soul like water. None shall have power to burn you or make you ash." - Kaela Rivera

Welcome, readers, to the readalong for Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera! Today, we journey to Tierra del Sol and join Cece on a most perilous and fantastical adventure.

This will be a SPOILER discussion for the first half of Cece Rios, so if you haven’t read chapters 1 - 15 please make sure you do before continuing on. At the end of this post, you'll find some questions about what we’ve read and we’d just love to hear your thoughts. **Winners for the 'Cece Rios' readalong have been contacted! Thank you all so much for participating!**

And now, onto the book!

The story so far...

Cece Rios was only seven years old when she met her first criatura—legendary creatures of great power and enemies to the people of Tierra del Sol. However this criatura was kind to Cece, and so Cece returned the favour by helping the criatura escape the mob that surrounded them. Ever since then, Cece has felt like an outsider, both in her community and with her family.

Years later on Noche de Muerte, the night on which the door to the criaturas’ world opens, Cece helplessly watches as her sister Juana is snatched away by the dark criatura El Sombrerón. Cece vows to get her sister back, though no one who’s been stolen away to Devil’s Alley has ever returned before.

Armed with her Tía Catrina’s diary—her aunt who left Tierra del Sol years ago to become a bruja—Cece realizes she must act as a bruja herself to win the Bruja Fights, earn passage into Devil’s Alley, and save her sister. But in order to become a bruja, Cece must enslave a criatura’s soul to her own...

And so Cece goes off to do just that, though the task proves much more difficult than she expected. Just as things look dire, a criatura resembling a boy her own age appears to help her out. This boy turns out to be the legendary criatura Coyote himself, and he owes Cece a debt. Cece and Coyote agree to work together to win the Bruja Fights, and Coyote entrusts his soul stone to Cece for the time being.

Though Cece and Coyote win their first fight, Coyote is too injured to compete in the second round. Coyote sends Cece off to find a criatura known as Little Lion as he owes Coyote a debt as well. Though Little Lion is initially unhappy about the situation, he agrees to join Cece and Coyote so long as his soul stone is returned to him after the fights are finished.


1. Why do you think there is such a big distinction in Tierra del Sol between Cece’s “soul like water” and her community’s respect for a person’s “inner fire”? In what ways does this make Cece different from her family?

2. Coyote tells Cece the true story behind fire. What is the difference between the story Cece was told growing up and the true story Coyote retells? Why do you think the story changed so much over time?

3. The emotions that Cece uses to empower Coyote and Little Lion are very different. Why is that and in what ways is this shown?

4. Which criatura that we’ve met so far would you like to meet in real life, if you could? 

We'll conclude our reading of Cece Rios on Wednesday, May 19th, and don't forget to join us on Friday for our live author chat with Kaela!

Photo from @reads.by.the.sea.