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Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron (Maya and the Rising Dark #1)

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.

3/5 stars!

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. 

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Aru Shah and the End of Time – Roshani Choksi

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

I really liked this! A very enjoyable read, with two interesting main protagonists, and of course, the talking pigeon was delightful. I’m not well versed on Indian mythology, I usually read about Egyptian, Roman or Greek, so reading this was incredibly exciting being introduced to a new world of myths and legends.

I’m not giving at a 5 or a high 4 cos it felt like it missed something . . . I’m not sure what. It times it felt a little slow and confusing keeping up with all the new introductions (I guess I should’ve checked the back for that glossary – didn’t realise it was there until the end!). I think, as some first novels in a series do (or in this case, quartet), it was a little rocky with finding it’s balance/footing with some of the mythological-real-world elements as Chokshi tried to work out her characterisations and narrative voice, but I think this will be built upon for the sequel.

A very easy, accessible read, and I certainly seem to have preferred Chokshi’s middle grade work compared to her young adult.

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The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium, #2) – Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (A Review)

Callum Hunt’s summer break isn’t like other kids’. His closest companion is a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc. His father suspects him of being secretly evil. And, of course, most kids aren’t heading back to school in the magical world of the Magisterium . . .

It’s not easy for Call . . . and it gets even harder after he checks out his basement and discovers that his dad might be trying to destroy both him and Havoc.

Call escapes to the Magisterium but things only intensify there. The Alkahest – a copper gauntlet capable of separating certain magicians from their magic – has been stolen. And in their search to discover the culprit, Call and his friends awaken the attention of some very dangerous foes – and get closer to an even more dangerous truth.

As the mysteries of the Magisterium deepen and widen, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take readers on an extraordinary journey through one boy’s conflict -and a whole world’s fate.

An enjoyable sequel to the Iron Trial. It’s been a year since I have read the first book, and luckily that didn’t hinder my reading experience. Thankfully the book went over a lot of details and main plot points of the first book, making it easy to jump right back into the world.

This book was okay. I can’t say that I loved loved it, but I didn’t not like it. It was okay, it was good and I will still continue on with the series.

I very much enjoy the magic system. With the chaos, and Callum making an “Evil Overlord” column. The latter was funny, if not a little cynical at times — he constantly questions even the smallest of things. This really does show the inner conflict he’s in, and his own struggle on whether he truly is the evil Mage that people said he was.

It’s exciting to see them move up through different years, and learn more about their own magic. Since they didn’t spend much time at the school in this book, hopefully there will be more in the next.

*SPOILER* So when Call finally announced that he was actually Constantine, his friends took it pretty well. Well, everyone but Jasper, but he’s not exactly best friends with Call. I feel like Jasper’s was the most appropriate reaction. Someone who had murdered hundreds of mages is in front of you and you’re just standing there? Like nope. Yes, Aaron and Tamara both were disbelieving and unwilling to admit it…but they just seemed to accept it so easily. I don’t know, I was expecting a bit more from the revelation than what we got. A bit more anger? Maybe there will be more of this in the next instalment…*SPOILER ENDS*

I would like to see more of Alex. Hm…I think there might be a lot more to his character than what we see. But let’s just all accept that Havoc is the best character!

Overall, this was a good, enjoyable, easy read and I will be picking up the next one!

You can also view this review on Goodreads!