Book Review — “Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm” is Just the Adventure Readers Need

The Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA) is back with another exciting mission for new recruits Shinji Takahashi and his friend Lucy in Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm. Now full-fledged members of the group, Shinji must learn to use his acquired powers from the Coatl while Lucy must learn to live away from her family.  

With the possibility of discovering what happened to a lost society named the Natia, Shinji and Lucy join an expedition for SEA led by the intrepid former pirate Oliver Ocean, to find a shipwreck that may hold clues to this lost community. A mission for SEA is dangerous, especially with arch enemies like the Hightower Corporation always nipping at their heels, but this SEA mission faces a danger within.

When the SEA expedition is derailed by Hightower machinations, the group lands on a hidden island which appears to hold the key to the lost culture. Unfortunately, this is the island that Shinji dreamed of, and is being called to do something that would help free the mythical Storm Boar, a magical being imprisoned on the island. Without talking to his friends, or seeking the help of Oliver, Shinji makes the decision to help the Storm Boar gain his freedom.

What could go wrong?

Julie Kagawa has tapped into an amazing genre of middle grade books that are part Indiana Jones set in contemporary times, but feel like a throwback to lost adventures from decades ago. The idea of being able to set sail, even in modern day, to find lost cultures and to decipher what happened to a disappeared group from centuries before is always a winner with me, and Kagawa has perfectly spun her sophomore tale in the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

In the first book, the threat was real and external to Shinji, Lucy, and the rest of the team. The Hightower Corporation was a present threat with Lucy’s dad Gideon Frost being the main bad guy. For Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm the battlefield shifts from external to internal. Having been successful in defeating Hightower, Shinji and Lucy have had their lives changed. They are the youngest, and least experienced members of SEA and not sure what to do.

Here we meet an older Shinji who is struggling to understand what happened to him in his first adventure, and not sure what to do with his new abilities. The question of wondering if you are worthy of your new skills is a well-known trope for stories of all kinds and is repeated because accepting your abilities and believing in yourself is a universal truth no matter your age or the circumstance. Kagawa’s offering is designed to propel the story in a thrilling manner, but will make every reader wonder how they would feel, or what they would do if placed into the shoes of young Mr. Takahashi.

Not trusting himself, Shinji tries to deal with his worries by hiding the truth from his friends. Concerned that Lucy may want to go back to Hightower, he pulls away from his best friend who literally saved his life, and tries to understand magic on his own.

The most interesting addition to the story is the character of Roux. A street kid that becomes a stowaway on the SEA ship, Roux adds a level of complexity to Shinji and Lucy’s activities. He has no family, nowhere to go, and is kind of a smart aleck. Only capable of pestering Lucy, and yet appealing to Shinji, Roux becomes the third member of the friendship.

There is no success for Shinji unless he trusts his team. For a kid who has mostly relied on himself, other than his aunt, it’s hard to embrace new things even if everything looks good. Trust is a big issue, and Shinji must learn to seek help and to not try to fight his battles on his own.

The book includes the return of my favorite literary character, Oliver Ocean. He’s just so cool, and with Ryan Reynolds signing on to a film version set in the world of SEA, he simply must be Oliver Ocean.

Lucy shows her wit and intellect and why she is the perfect friend to Shinji. Lucy is the analytical thinker of the group. She’s the perfect complement to Shinji and together they are unstoppable, with some room for growth.


As a kid, I remember one of the most thrilling books I read in middle school was The Castaway by Arthur J. Roth. Set a century ago, featuring a teenager shipwrecked on a rocky island, it was the story of survival that appealed to me. The follow up book I read was not as good, and the reason why is because a reader needs to connect to the material in a manner that allows one to open the page and not just read the book but be the character in the story. Books have the power of imagination that bring new understanding and meaning for readers who may never leave the confines of their city limits let alone the continental borders.

The revolution in books is not that topics have changed, it’s that middle grade readers are not being talked down to in a certain type of way, but rather given the variety of reading that they crave. I survived as a kid reading the novelizations of my favorite movies, because those were the stories that I wanted and most often the choice that was provided did not interest me.

What sets Julie Kagawa’s work apart, and in the form of Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm is that this book will appeal to everyone. One can identify with a variety of characters and have a jolly good time. Books can teach us so much, but they can be fun, and adventurous. This is what Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm does. Prepare for adventure with the members of SEA.

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving