Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

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Synopsis: 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. 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. 

Publication Date: September 22nd, 2020

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Series: Maya and the Rising Dark #1

Rating: Image result for 4 out of 5 stars

Link: Amazon/Book Depository/Goodreads

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My Review:

Disclaimer: I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.

But I remembered what Papa said: The enemy is strongest under the cover of darkness. It was yet another risk we had to take.

I really hope we all remember my review of Kingdom of Souls, on how Rena Barron has promise. Because she does, and I’m really thinking of buying all her books, not because she has the most beautiful covers ever-but simply because they are amazing! But she officially became one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to see what else she writes in the future!

So uhh, how come no one dared to mention this book is the first book in a trilogy?! How come no one mentioned that. It was under my impressions that this book was a standalone, but I’m not complaining. IT GIVES ME MORE TIME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THESE CHARACTERS, EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY LOVE THEM.

BUT IT’S ALSO MORE BLACK GIRL MAGIC AND I AM OKAY WITH THAT. We need more books by Black authors, especially when it comes to mythology like this book. But honestly, I think like after I get it a job if I ever do and I get money, I’m buying all of Rena Barron’s books and special editions because she BECAME ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTO-BUY AUTHORS.

Can we just talk about how pretty this cover is. I’m such in awe with this cover, with all these beautiful colors coming together. And the fact that we have a Black girl wielding a staff which is about million times cooler!

This book is a middle grade mythology book that is both Contemporary Fantasy and it was really awesome! Maya is a 12 year old who has anemia, struggles with math and been seeing things-things that are not really there. Until, strange things continued to happen to where she learns that she is in fact 1/2 Godling (half god, half human), and that her father is the guardian of the veil.

Until Maya’s father is abducted, and she learns that her all of her father’s stories were true. And now, she has to get her father back with the help with her two best friends-Eli and Frankie, from the clutches of The Lord of Shadows.

I love the inclusion of the gods. I am not familiar with West African gods/goddesses at all, but the way they were included was so good. This was so different from other middle grade mythology book I have read, because there was no quests or prophecies involved. But the fun inclusion with them.

I can’t wait to know more about these gods/goddesses in the next future books, and I hope they play more of role in the next books.

I ABSOLUTELY ADORED MAYA. She is a fun, spunky twelve year old kid who lives in the South End of Chicago. She loves superheroes, she loves comic books and she hopes one day she would be able to go to Comic Con. She was a such a fun character, and I adored her right from the very first page.


This book was so awesome, and I can’t wait to read the other books in this series. This book made Rena Barron one of my favorite auto-buy authors, because of this book. I enjoyed Kingdom of Souls, but this book made her to be one of my favorites. I love that this book is a mix of Fantasy and Contemporary which makes it awesome! The inclusion of gods/goddesses and Maya being the chosen one to go find her dad who was abducted by The Lord of Shadows and needs the help of her friends to go find him. I adored these characters a lot especially Maya. She is such a fun character!

TW: Fantasy Violence, death (on-page), genocide (mentioned), mention of war, blood, use of slurs, mention of earthquake, mention of human experimentation, bullying, mention of killing others, possession, death of a parent (mentioned), death of loved ones (mentioned), kidnapping, blood, cannibalism (mentioned)

Rep: Black Cast, mention of a sapphic romance, enby side character, Black MC

Recommendable: Yes

  • Black Cast by a Black Author
  • Middle Grade
  • African mythology
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About the Author:

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Bio: 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.

Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @renathedreamer.

She is represented by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

Website/Twitter/Instagram

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Want to read this book? What’s your favorite middle grade mythology book? Have you read Rena Barron’s debut novel, Kingdom of Souls? Tell me in the comments!

About the Blogger:

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Lori is an advocate for all things diverse to help those who are in the margins. She loves reading, but music holds a dear place in her heart. She is a teenager in high school, a feminist, and is in the LGBTQ+ community. Uses she/her or they/them pronouns 🌈

You can find me on: Twitter/Instagram/Goodreads

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