Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and I SQUEALED when I received the confirmation email for this Book Blitz!
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Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published: September 22nd, 2020
Click on the following links to purchase this book!
In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.
Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams.
When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.
“But to me, math was about as interesting as watching paint dry, which was actually a thing I had to do for art class once.”
When I read this sentence, I KNEW I would end up loving this book! I could relate to Maya on a whole new level!
Maya and the Rising Dark follows Maya Janine Abeola, a 12-year-old comic nerd from the Chicago South Side who is living a normal life, until things start going topsy-turvy. She starts seeing out-of-the-ordinary things like black lightning, weird dreams and even encounters a pack of werehyenas before she finds out she is a godling! Yes, you heard it right! She is half-god and half-human (much like the Greek demigods)!
When you have a badass heroine, you definitely need a villain! When the Lord of Shadows kidnaps Maya’s father, she sets outs on a journey with her two best friends, Frankie and Eli, and encounters a ton of creatures and has a whirlwind of adventures in the Dark, which is a parallel plane that coexists with the human plane! If you want to get a better idea, think of Upside Down from Stranger Things!
This is a high-stakes, action-packed, nail-biting #ownvoices contemporary fantasy with an all-brown cast, richly steeped in West African Folklore that is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat! Believe me when I say this, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE DULL MOMENT IN THIS BOOK! The story draws you in from the very first page, doesn’t drop you off in between and leaves you craving for more!
I have read quite a few middle grade contemporary fantasies inspired by various mythologies but this was a first for me! I have always wanted to discover more about West African mythology and folklore, and Maya and the Rising Dark helped me with just that! This book is teeming with magical abilities, orishas, darkbringers, aziza and many more characters from West African folklore that you will remember long after you have flipped the last page!
AND OH MY GOD. THIS BOOK IS SO FULL OF EMOTIONS. The relationship between Maya and her father was outright one of the BEST father-daughter relationships I have come across in Middle Grade! Maya’s father, who happens to be the Keeper of the Veil that separates our world from the Dark, trains Maya with the staff! He is honestly such a gem and their dynamic made me all jelly! GIVE ME MORE OF THIS IN BOOK TWO PLEASE.
I had a MAJOR déjà vu moment while reading this book! Maya, being a comic nerd, is super excited for her very first Comic Con! This took me right back to 2012 when I was super excited for MY first Comic Con! Honestly, Rena hit me with all the feels in this book!
“Every kid should be so lucky to have friends who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Friends who accept you exactly the way you are and help you be brave when you didn’t know that you could.”
Friendship plays a pivotal role in this book. This book paints in bold letters that there is POWER AND MAGIC IN FRIENDSHIP. Maya’s two besties, Frankie and Eli, embark on the journey with Maya and stay by her side right up to the end! Frankie is a science geek and Eli is a paranormal buff and their bickering throughout the book had me giggling! Frankie’s science talk reminded me of the seventh-grade me, haha!
This book is not only full of BIPOC characters, there is casual LGBTQ+ representation as well. What better way to normalise LGBTQ+ people than include them in Middle Grade books and instill the right thoughts in the minds of the younger generation of readers? Maya’s school principal Ollie in non-binary and Frankie has two moms! Yay for queer rep!
THIS BOOK IS SUPER IMPORTANT IN THE PRESENT DAY SITUATION. This book is a gift to all the brown kids out there who felt at any point that they aren’t enough. Well, YOU ARE. This book highlights the African-American community in a super-positive sense and I want ALL MIDDLE SCHOOLERS to read this book! I really wish I had books like these back in middle school! A book with a brown heroine and full of brown characters? Count me in ANY DAY! This book is so full of warmth and joy. Rena has managed to capture the right emotions of family, friendship and most importantly, community! Maya’s locality is full of BIPOC families and these brown kids have my entire heart!
I would give this book super-shiny, super-sparkly, super-glittery 4.5 stars!
Phew! This review turned out longer than expected! If you are reading this, thank you so much for staying with me until the end. I hope I have motivated you enough to pick up this book! So, what are you waiting for?
Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.
From a very young age she loved reading stories where kids saved the world, tamed dragons, wielded magic, flew spaceships, became the chosen one. She desperately searched for characters in books who looked like her and was always disappointed to find none, which fueled her early interest in writing.
Before HarperTeen acquired her Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Kingdom of Souls, Rena spent 10 years in the query trends–writing across multiple genres and age groups in the pursuit of publication. In 2017, she entered Pitch Wars, a popular and highly sought-after online mentorship program that included an agent showcase round. Rena’s entry (then titled “The Last Witchdoctor”) received multiple offers of representation. She signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary shortly after, and the manuscript went on to sell in a heated auction.
In addition to the Kingdom of Souls series, Rena also has written a middle grade epic fantasy titled Maya and The Rising Dark debuting in Spring 2020, pitched as Stranger Things meets Percy Jackson, that sold in a pre-empt to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On a personal note, Rena loves all things science fiction and fantasy, ghosts, and superheroes. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.