I loved Isabelle Allende's version of Zorro so as soon as I saw this title I picked it up. It began a little slowly--but soon I fell into the plot and setting. Set in the Pueblo de los Angeles in the 1700's this would be a great novel for Hispanic kids with an interest in the history of California or Hispanics in the USA. I think teens will enjoy the plot line and character development while at the same time learn a lot about the history of California and the relationships between Native peoples, the Roman Catholic church, and Spanish explorers.
No historian, I can only hope that the details of this book are accurate. (That might be a good task for my next historical reading project!)
One interesting link to a more advanced read would be the plot device--a modern descendant of the de la Vega family is called in when a secret room full of artifacts is discovered after an earthquake. This is reminiscent of Laurie R. King's device of the artifacts her narrator is sent that initiates the Mary Russell series. When teaching kids how to write fiction this is a great place to begin. How can an object be the initiating event for a story? In King's books the artifact does indeed serve as the initiation of the tale. In this book it is just the chest with ancient papers telling the stories that begins the tale.
I certain hope for more books in this series. We need lots of readings for Hispanics students and a better historical view of the development of American cultures in the western states.
The School Library Journal's reviewer wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the book as I. He called it a "Hardy Boys" knock-off. Having worked with striving readers most of my life, sometimes this sort of formula provides the predictable structure that allows them to move through enough print to become proficient. I'll be eager to find out the responses of actual kids. I think I'll give it to one this afternoon. I'll update when I get a response.