ARC Review: MAYA AND THE RISING DARK by Rena Barron (Middle Grade Monday)

I got an ARC at YALC. It has not affected my opinions.

Maya and the Rising Dark.png
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes  - first book



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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is a really fun Middle Grade adventure that I whizzed through. The pacing is wonderful, pulling you from strange occurrence to werehyena attack without dragging or losing the reader to confusion.

Though this isn’t a Rick Riordan Presents book, it’s a similar type of book – mythology from West Africa brought into modern-day America, its beings and magic hidden alongside and within our own. The mythology was all new to me, because I’m only familiar with Greek, Roman and Egyptian (so the stuff Rick Riordan writes). This meant that the story felt so new, particularly the magic.

The different magics are slowly brought in, which helped establish and understand them. It wasn’t too much information to take it, and it made the magic feel less wishy-washy-solves all. They each solved different problems, first when they were introduced and then at the end.

The narrator’s voice – Maya’s – is really sharp and clear, very distinct. It’s a subtle but really effect way that Rena builds Maya’s character and conveys her reactions. She has these little asides interjected into her reporting which really brought out her emotions – such as frustration or amusement.

I was actually expecting another twist at the end, but it didn’t come. Probably that’s because I’m so used to plot-altering twists in the final few chapters so common in YA. However it did mean I felt on edge during the ending, then a little let down that… what I’d thought would be a big twist and raise the stakes didn’t happen. It made the ending feel a little too easy.

However, overall, it was a great start to the series, and I look forwards to later books.

Read my reviews of other books by Rena Barron:

Middle Grade:

Maya and the Rising Dark (this series):

Young Adult:

Kingdom of Souls:

One thought on “ARC Review: MAYA AND THE RISING DARK by Rena Barron (Middle Grade Monday)

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