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.
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. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.
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. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But 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.
Rena Barron’s MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is an excitable and enjoyable read, featuring West African Mythology and a cast of wonderful characters.
The novel follows the titular character Maya, and her best friends Frankie and Eli as they venture in to the Dark to face the villainous Lord of Shadows and to save her Papa. The friendship between Maya, Frankie and Eli was the best part of the novel for me. I loved each of their characters individually, and the dynamic between them. I loved that each of them had their own striking personality. They had some delightfully hilarious scenes, and I really enjoyed the unconditional support that they had for each other.
Another highlight of the novel for me – bouncing off of the last one – was the feeling of community in the novel. I loved how the neighbourhood felt like a family. I do wish that we got to see more of the people in the neighbourhood and the relationships between them (I would’ve liked more than just them arguing). I hope this is something we see more in the sequel.
I enjoyed the aspects of West African Mythology, learning about Orisha’s and the other creatures. Again, I do hope we get more of them in the sequel.
I enjoyed the quest aspect of this novel, as Maya and her friends were faced with Darkbringers who are determined to stop Maya from rescuing her Papa and securing the Veil between their two worlds. While the quests were interesting, something was missing for me. The novel just jumped from quest-to-quest, and then it ended, and I was like hm. Wish there was a bit more too it than jumping from action-to-action. While Maya – and her friends – did go on a character ARC of learning more about themselves, and the world around them, ultimately I felt like the overall ARC was lackluster. I don’t want to say too much because I do not want to spoil, but I feel like there could have been more development to Maya’s realisation of her powers & more exploration of the past etc. I feel like Barron may be saving a lot of the information/reveals for further novels in the series.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes.
Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for giving me access to this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.