Rise of the Halfling King (Tales of the Feathered Serpent #1)

By: David Bowles
Illustrator: Charlene Bowles
“It’s a timeless story told in a timely way: Mayan codex meets superhero comic book…a fresh story for a new generation of readers.”—New York Times
A middle grade graphic novel follows the adventures of a magical boy from Maya mythology. The first of a series based on ancient Mesoamerican myths and legends.


A middle grade graphic novel follows the adventures of a magical boy from Maya mythology. The first of a series based on ancient Mesoamerican myths and legends.

Sayam has always been different from other kids—he’s very short for his age, his best friend is a monkey, and most curious of all: he was born from an egg! His grandmother, a witch, found him and taught him all the ancient magic she uses to help her people. So when a giant snake starts terrorizing a nearby city, Sayam decides it’s time for him to use his knowledge to help others, and steps into action. But the beast might not be Sayam’s biggest problem: the ruthless King Kinich Kak Ek sees Sayam as a threat to his throne. Prophecy declares that whoever succeeds at three impossible tests will be king. Monstrous snakes and impossible tests are a lot for a boy to handle, but Sayam is brave and has a loyal monkey, a wise grandmother, and magical knowledge on his side!

Fans of adventure tales with a mythological focus—such as Bowles’ previous work with Latin American myths, The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande and the Garza Twin series; as well as Rick Riordan Presents, especially the Storm Runner novels—will love this exciting and accessible graphic novel. Rise of the Halfling Kingis also an invaluable educational tool for middle school students—it’s an incredibly well-researched introduction to Maya culture, made accessible by an expert in Mesoamerican culture and juvenile literature. Bowles previously stitched together a number of tales from Maya, Aztec, and other ancient mythology from pre-Columbian Mexico in the critically-acclaimed YA book, Feathered Serpents, Dark Heart of Sky.

David Bowles is a Mexican American author and educator based in South Texas. He has written fourteen books. His middle grade novel-in-verse They Call Me Güero has been the recipient of numerous honors such as the Pura Belpré Honor, the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, the Walter Dean Myers Honor Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Best Middle Grade Book Award, the Skipping Stones Award; the book is also an Américas Book Award Commended Title and was named in the Bluebonnet Award Masterlist. Some of his other books are Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky and The Smoking Mirror.

Charlene Bowles is a comic artist and illustrator based in Texas. She graduated from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2018. Rise of the Halfling King is her debut graphic novel and her work has also been featured on the covers of the award-winning Garza Twins books. She is currently developing many of her own comic projects.

Awards and Accomodations

Best Books of 2020, Middle Grade—Kirkus Reviews
101 Great Books for Kids List of 2020, Evanston Public Library
2021 TLA Little Maverick list

1 review for Rise of the Halfling King (Tales of the Feathered Serpent #1)

  1. Kirkus Review
    In the first of 10 graphic novels to adapt his work Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky (2018), David Bowles pairs up with illustrator Charlene Bowles to bring Mesoamerican heroes to life. With seemingly simple yet vivid illustrations characterized by strong, dynamic lines, the illustrator develops cunning and endearing characters to populate this enticing tale. In an afterword, the author shares the historical significance of Maya storytelling and its connection to today’s graphic novels.
    An unmissable adventure of mythical proportions.

    New York Times
    It’s a timeless story told in a timely way: Mayan codex meets superhero comic book…“Rise of the Halfling King” is a fresh story for a new generation of readers.

    JC Cervantes, NYT-bestselling author of the Storm Runner novels
    A tale of wonder, courage, and ultimately the power of goodness. I was completely spellbound by the imagery and storytelling. Cannot wait to see what magic is woven into the next installment!

    School Library Journal
    It’s fast, vivid, and action-laden.

    Carlos Hernandez, author of Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe
    What an amazing trick David and Charlene Bowles have pulled off in Rise of the Halfling King! Somehow, they’ve managed to tell a story that feels contemporary, mythic, and historical all at once. The careful writing subtly yet unmistakably evokes the Maya language and culture, while the limpid, evocative illustrations provided both grounding and a launchpad for the imagination.

    The Horn Book
    Bowles highlights Mayan writing and storytelling systems, embedding references to Mayan philosophy and ethics in a thrilling, fast-moving plot.

    David José Older, NYT-bestselling author of the Dactyl Hill Squad series
    Rise of the Halfling King is a fun and fantastic adventure for kids of all ages with beautiful art and a joyful sense of upliftment.

    Publishers Weekly
    A respectful, engaging interpretation of ancient Mesoamerican folklore accessible for younger readers.

    Reading Style
    Stories from an often-overlooked culture are brought to life with colorful panels, intriguing plot and characters who jump off the pages and into the reader’s imagination. —Barbara Moon

    Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
    With giant snakes and a monkey best friend sealing the deal for lovers of fantasy and folklore…the digital, action-packed art of debut graphic novelist (and author’s daughter) Charlene Bowles, [use] of vibrant colors and cartoonish character design makes this an especially kid-friendly pick. —Kiri Palm

    Midwest Book Review
    Simply stated, “Rise of the Halfling King” is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library graphic novel collections for young readers ages 8-13.

    De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
    Working together, the father-daughter team of David and Charlene Bowles have produced a remarkably illustrated, Mayan tradition-based story, seamlessly interwoven with comic-book action…the two have pulled this off brilliantly. Tales of the Feathered Serpent, Book 1: Rise of the Halfling King will mesmerize middle-grade readers. It’s highly, highly recommended.

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