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Maya and the Rising Dark

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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.

298 pages, Hardcover

First published September 22, 2020

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About the author

Rena Barron

6 books969 followers
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.

Rena is the author of the YA fantasy series, KINGDOM OF SOULS and the contemporary fantasy middle grade series, MAYA AND THE RISING DARK.

Check out the World Map and World Guide for KINGDOM OF SOULS at http://kingdomofsoulsbook.com/

Check out the activity guide for MAYA AND THE RISING DARK at http://renabarron.com/maya-and-the-ri...

Rena prefers not to be tagged in reviews to save her sanity. Follow her at @renathedreamer and renabarron.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 363 reviews
Profile Image for Jade Ratley.
197 reviews2,999 followers
June 8, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley for the earc of this one!

I had a real fun time on Maya’s journey. Maya is a 12 year old girl, when on the search for her missing father she finds herself in the middle of a war between two sides of the world - the Orishas and the Darkbringers. It was great to read a middle grade with African mythology, as this is definitely not something I’ve read before!

When putting this through CAWPILE (the rating system I use) this came out at an overall score of 6.71, which is a high 3 star rating. I found the characters great fun and very easy to root for, their individual personalities shining through along with the bond of their friendship. The community atmosphere of Maya’s home town was very apparent, with clear references to the side characters that make the community cast.

I feel this story is quite comparable to Percy Jackson, for a number of reasons (not in any sort of ‘rip off’ way, it was still incredibly original). 1. The story follows a young ‘godling’ (child of a god and human) coming into their powers and learning about the godly side of their parentage. 2. The chapter titles were similarly structures (I.e. I Nearly Become Bird Food). 3. The inclusivity and diversity of the cast of characters. 4. The writing style, it was humorous in a way, easy to follow and fall into the story.

I definitely had a fun time with this, and enjoyed my reading experience, but it was missing something for me - I didn’t feel particularly emotional for the characters or at any point throughout the plot, it just didn’t suck me in that way. The plot was definitely action packed with conflicts and troubles facing the main trio often, but I didn’t feel any emotion unfortunately.

That being said, I had an enjoyable reading experience and would for sure recommend to a fan of middle grade fantasy!
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
532 reviews707 followers
September 22, 2020
This Middle Grade fantasy kicks off with school ending for the summer. Maya is excited to be done with school and looking forward to finally being able to attend Comic Con this summer with her father. But then strange things start happening that she can't ignore. And she discovers a big family secret. Her father is an orisha and a guardian of a veil between their world and a dark world. And there are several orisha living in her community watching over her and her friends. But the worst comes when her father is captured by the Lord of Shadows and his darkbringer army. Now it's up to Maya and her friends to use their godling powers to defeat him before he is able to cross the veil.

One thing I really enjoyed that made this different from the usual story is that there wasn't one chosen one with a team surrounding them. All of Maya's closest friends found out at the same time as her that they are half orisha. And her friend Frankie was the first to display and use her powers. So her friends are able to use their powers alongside her to help save their world.

This story does a great job introducing children to African gods and goddesses they may be unfamiliar with. It also introduces them to creatures such as elokos which are vicious forest dwelling creatures. The mythology isn't overly complicated and is explained in a way young readers will be able to follow along to truly immerse themselves.

The action packed scenes and fast pace will be sure to keep young readers entertained. And the sense of community and family will make the story all more relatable to them. The Chicago setting is also one we don't usually see in stories so I liked how that was incorporated.

Overall a this is a solid start to a series and a great story for beginner fantasy readers and I was lucky enough to be gifted an early copy from the author herself for review.

Originally posted at
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
August 24, 2020
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Anuska G

Maya and the Rising Dark is a fun, action-packed adventure story based on West African mythology. Twelve-year old Maya has always dismissed her papa’s adventure stories as bizarre and unreal, but when she begins to notice creatures straight out of those stories around her neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago whom apparently nobody else sees, Maya tells her friends Eli and Frankie about them, and the trio starts looking for an explanation. They find out that Maya’s father, who is actually the orisha guardian of the veil between our world and The Dark, has been kidnapped by the Lord of Shadows, a terrifying entity who appears in Maya’s dreams frequently. Now it’s up to Maya and her friends to rescue Maya’s father from the Dark and stop the Lord of Shadows from unleashing his army on the human world.

Raad the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily
Profile Image for Michelle.
653 reviews183 followers
July 9, 2021
Maya and the Rising Dark is a middle grade book full of action, adventure and magic.

Twelve year old Maya seems like your average girl. All she wants to do is to go to Comic Con and spend time enjoying the summer with her two besties Eli and Frankie. That is until she starts seeing things. Things she cannot explain but scare her very much. Then her father goes missing. While trying to find him she learns that he is the Orisha Elegua who holds the keys between worlds. Apparently the veil that separates our world from the dark has been torn and the Lord of Shadows has come seeking his revenge. But he is not alone. He has an army of darkbringers who are hell bent on destroying our world and everything in it.

This book is reminiscent of mythology based adventure tales like Percy Jackson and the Olympians. My entire family enjoyed that series. While I remember getting excited every time Riordan dropped the name of a god I had learned about in grade school, I was exhilarated to discover the Yoruba Orishas who served as Maya's neighbors and protectors.

The characters were vividly drawn. Maya and her friends were like the three strands of a braid united in their power, equal in their importance.

Young readers will be so enchanted by the story they won't even realize they are learning something. Would recommend to readers seeking fast paced adventure with a strong sense of community.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 70 books999 followers
August 13, 2019
This book is just fantastically fun and full of characters I adored, starting with brave, loyal Maya herself and very much including her two beautifully geeky best friends, Frankie and Eli, her parents, her teachers, her cranky neighbors, and absolutely all of her beloved neighborhood, which feels so warm and vivid and real. (There's also lots of nice casual diversity, like the fact that Frankie happens to have two moms, the school principal uses the "they" and "them" pronouns, etc.) I loved the worldbuilding and the magic, the adventure was breathlessly exciting, and most of all, I just REALLY wanted to make sure that Maya, Frankie, and Eli would be okay! Because I love all of three of them SO much.

I can't wait for their next adventure!
October 3, 2020
Book number 14 for September!
In September I have read 15 books total and this was my second to last read for the month. I really am happy I read this one because I had the arc of it since august because someone from a Facebook group called: arcs for trade, wanted to trade it with me because I’ve been wanting to read it for a while and I actually thought this was part of the Rick riordan presents but it wasn’t but it was still a good middle grade!
Maya and the rising dark by Rena Barron was my first book by this author and I really enjoyed this one as well. I gave this a 5/5 stars and here is why...
This is a middle grade novel and I haven’t read a lot of them in 202. I’ve read some but not a lot! Second it was a super short and fast and funny book. Third it’s own voices for person of color and fourth there are an amazing cast of characters including some lgbt characters in this book too! That’s right I said lgbt characters in the book.
So maya and the rising dark is about our main character name maya and she is this ordinary girl when one day when she stayed in her after school tutoring everything is when the world that maya knew of changes. U find out that maya isn’t just ur average 12 or 13 year old girl she has these god like powers, but she doesn’t know them yet until she saw the world from her classroom window go from a very bright and sunny day too a dark day and it was only 3pm and it doesn’t get dark that early.
So every time she see the world go dark her amnesia goes a little crazy and she thinks she can see these werid wolf like creature outside her window. And so she and her best friend Eli and Frankie who are amazing btw! They go out there and try to fight out these creatures but they can’t. Maya discovered that she is part orshia and human.
Sounds similar to another book? Ik it does but this one was so much to read. It was a little slow in the middle of the book but it picked up towards the end. So I’m really happy I read this and loved it and can’t wait for book 2 to come out next summer...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
May 14, 2020
Maya and the Rising Dark

📚 𝗛𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗼 𝗯𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗳𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗱𝘀! Whenever I am in a reading slump, I always turn to a middle-grade book to boost it back up. 𝗠𝗮𝘆𝗮 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗮𝗿𝗸 by Rena Barron did just that! What an exciting new adventure with strong characters and unlimited action! This is an exhilarating read from the first page to the last. Twelve-year-old Maya and her friends Frankie and Eli discover that there is more than what meets the eyes when it comes to their lives. Together they need to face many dangers and brave darkness if they want to free Maya’s father from the Lord of Shadows.

This is the first book in this new series. I am looking forward to reading the next one and see where the author will take us.

💌 My Rating: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️/5

🙋🏼‍♀️ Thank you, 𝗥𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗖𝗼𝗮𝘀𝘁 𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸𝘀 for sending me an ARC of this fantastic book. 𝗠𝗮𝘆𝗮 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗮𝗿𝗸 by Rena Barron will be available at your favourite bookstore on September 22, 2020.

#poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #book #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #bookphotography #mayaandtherisingdark #renabarron #bookreview
Profile Image for Adri.
986 reviews799 followers
April 14, 2020
This is a fun and fast-paced read! It fits the same niche as the Rick Riordan Presents books in that it's an #ownvoices middle grade story about cultural mythology coming to life, so if you enjoy those books, you will definitely be a fan of this one as well.

What really stood out to me about this story is that it's a clever twist on The Chosen One trope. I don't want to say too much, but Maya is *not* the only characters with powers, and in fact she's part of an incredible community that knows all about orisha magic. It seems like a hallmark of The Chosen One narrative, especially in modern stories, is an element of isolation--the hero not being able to tell anyone what they're going through simply because there's no way others could begin to understand.

But that is not the case in this story. Maya is surrounded by strong, magical people who are on her side 100%. They are there to help her through discovering these powers and this whole other world, they are not there to be a hindrance to her. She does not have to hide herself from anyone.

I also appreciate how this story acknowledges that if your actions come at the expense of others, then they cannot be called heroic. There are very real consequences that come with magic and keeping the human world safe, and the understanding that sometimes you're the prey and other times you're the monster is an essential one. I'm intrigued to see how that develops in future books.

Yes, I did think the main villain was a little hokey at times, and I wish the alternate dimensions were fleshed out a bit more vividly, but overall I really enjoyed this story and I appreciate all it has to offer!
Profile Image for Snail-Paced Reads.
352 reviews12 followers
September 28, 2020
It absolutely kills me to give any diverse book a low rating, and I specifically stuck with this one in the hopes that by the end it would turn around, but somehow the climax just managed to solidify my feelings. This book feels like it was written without an outline, and then just... left that way. Foreshadowing is more or less thrown out, characters have ten different possible arcs with no follow-through, huge chunks of the story are pretty much meaningless, the story's 'theme' is contemplated by Maya internally without ever having any impact on the story itself, a lot of how the mythology is intertwined with the modern world feels paper thin, and almost all the difficult puzzles/problems felt flat as things the characters learned earlier in the book are immediately made irrelevant and problems that should require thoughtful solutions just happen to have those solutions magically projected into Maya's mind because of who her father is. I also felt a little disappointed by how many times Maya and her friends had to be saved by adults in the first third of the book. If this had tied into her character arc at all, maybe it would have seemed less cruel to the poor middle grader readers here to watch someone their age have a fun adventure, but alas, that's not even the case.

Anyway, if you want a fun, diverse MG book, there are some amazing ones out there... the story in this one just wasn't up to par on any level, imo.
Profile Image for Paz.
184 reviews16 followers
December 6, 2020
Fifteenth read for #believathon! (back in november, but I'd forgot to update this, oops)

This is like Percy Jackson, but with a POC cast and yoruba mythology!! I love it. It was non stop action. Oh! And for once I loved to see the MC talking about the destiny or possible death of the beigns they kill in self defence, about the morally of it all. and about how gray the "heroes" were.
Highly recommend!
Profile Image for RoRo.
295 reviews65 followers
January 1, 2022
3.5 stars

Book 3/10 for Battle of the Books!
I have 2 full pages of notes so I don't really have a lot to say!
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and enjoyed the concept!
Profile Image for Sammie.
434 reviews40 followers
October 9, 2020
You can read my full review on my blog, The Bookwyrm's Den, here.

Many thanks to HMH Books for Young Readers Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced waaaaay back last year. Patience may be a virtue, but it’s clearly not in my arsenal of tools, okay? So I was super excited to be able to read this eARC.

Maya and the Rising Dark is a middle grade fantasy adventure perfect for readers who want Rick Riordan-esque books with a Black twist. Complete with a Black female lead, and based on West African mythology, this book packs in friendship bonds, adventure, and some awesome staff + magic fight scenes.

Ultimately, this book delivered on the promise of adventure and fun, and I whizzed right through it. I loved that it plays with the God/Godling tropes that have become popular lately but with a unique spin on it. I thought the climax ended up being a little easy, but I have that problem a lot with middle grade books, so it’s probably just me, the silly thing I am.

My Thoughts:

- This world is based on West African mythology and the Orisha pantheon, and I love it! As diverse books sink their claws into the publishing world, I’ve been sitting here twiddling my thumbs just waiting for more books about Orisha and West African lore, and I am so here for these books! When I say this book brings West African mythology to life … I mean it. Literally. The Orisha exist as characters, and they are fabulous. Not all creatures in West African mythology are nice, though, and our intrepid little heroes run into plenty of those, too!

- This book is chock full of adventure and quests, which naturally test the mettle (and friendship) of Maya and her friends. Hint: being friends with someone on a big quest to save the world is hard. Also hard: trying not to root for this trio. They’re all at an age where friendships are hard in general, but it was refreshing to see them tackling the challenge together, even if they sometimes had disagreements and bumps in the road. The adventure itself takes us to new places, like the Dark world on the other side of the veil. The plot moved at a pretty good pace, slowing down sometimes but always keeping me engaged and wanting to find out what happens next.

- Maya’s weapon of choice is a staff, and the fight scenes include staff-wielding, magic-wielding, and just all-around awesomeness. First, can I just say how refreshing it is to see a character not using, like, a sword or a knife or something? I like shiny stabby things as much as the next person, but there’s something unique and satisfying about fighting with a staff. Then, when you add magic into the fight scenes? They’re just *chef’s kiss* Because the Orisha are characters in this book (and they all, of course, have powers), there’s a lot of dynamic, fun fight scenes that include some really impressive shows of power. I loved seeing the characters fighting together, especially since they all have different styles of fighting and different powers. I don’t want to say too much, but I’ll leave you with this: these were some of my favorite fight scenes I’ve read in a mid-grade book recently!

- The villain was defeated a tad easily, but I did so enjoy his villainy, and I’m not entirely convinced we’ve seen the last of him. At least, I sure hope we haven’t. You know when you stumble across a villain so bad that you can’t help but love him? Yup, this is it. More importantly, the villain totally has a justified grievance. My all-time favorite villains are ones that I can feel their anger and understand their justification, because they feel much more real and rounded, and that is definitely the case here. Also, the scenes about him just really gave me chills, in a good “I don’t wanna meet this guy in a dark alley” sort of a way. Everything you’d want in a villain, and I’m not entirely ready to give him up yet.
Profile Image for Emmalynn.
1,610 reviews14 followers
March 20, 2022
I’m slightly conflicted on this one. It was about a 3.5 bumped up to 4 stars because I like the pace, the plot, and the characters. I do feel the conflict resolution for this book ending was a little rushed, but understanding it’s the first in a series, I’m giving a little grace.
One of the things I think the book did really well was the support between Maya and her friends. Helping Maya discover that her abilities/magic was inside of her all along and not contained in an inanimate object is a good life lesson in believing in oneself and having people who believe in you along the way. ❤️❤️❤️
The adventure was cute, fast paced, and fun, the downside for me is that there was to much telling instead of showing at times and to much contemplation given that this is a middle grade book, however, I still enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Travis.
738 reviews7 followers
February 4, 2023
This was a very enjoyable start to the Maya trilogy. The writing style was very easy and flowed quite well. The characters were easy to root for and the friendship dynamic was great. The story followed the same structure as any other middle grade story kind of, kid finds out there is more to her life, something happens to the family, kid makes it their mission to save the family. Nothing is wrong with this structure, but with Maya and the Rising Dark, I felt like the enemies were winning the entire time. It kept going from bad to worse, to somewhat good to worse again, then all of a sudden it was the end. I did not get the chance that there was any room to breathe. All in all though, I enjoyed my time reading this and am excited to see the mythology expand, along with the world in book two.
Profile Image for Nicole M. M..
Author 1 book290 followers
October 17, 2020
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Maya and the Rising Dark is a fantastical adventure based in African Mythology. Maya has always loved her dad’s stories of the Orishas and other magical creatures, but she never thought for a minute that they might all be real. So, she’s in for a big surprise when the Lord of Shadows starts appearing in her dreams and hinting at her father’s true identity—he is the guardian of the veil, the only thing keeping the Darkbringers from overwhelming the world of light. Turns out, her whole neighborhood is a haven for magical mythological (or so she thought) beings. When Maya’s dad is kidnapped, she and her two best friends take it upon themselves to do something about it. They find themselves in an alternate dark world full of danger, and discover their own abilities just when they need them most! One of my favorite aspects of this book is the tight-knit community that Maya lives in—it’s a positive portrayal of Chicago neighborhoods that you don’t get often. This book will definitely appeal to fans of Riordan’s books, many of whom would probably be introduced to a mythology they didn’t know much about. Plus, the trio of heroes are easy to relate to. This is a super fun read for the middle grade crowd!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Profile Image for Cat Reads Books.
78 reviews35 followers
August 12, 2021
Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron a is a fun, suspenseful fantasy featuring a trio of 12 year old best friends who go up against the immortal Lord of Shadows in the Dark, a kind of bizarro, sunless version of our world, to rescue Maya's demigod father from the evil lord's clutches. The writing style is simple but engaging, although Barron tends to over explain things via Maya's internal dialogue rather than trust the reader to put it together. As this is written for middle grade though, I can't really fault Barron for that.

First, the bad: the first 100 pages or so are B O R I N G. I came close to putting this in the DNF pile early on and though I don't rate DNF books, if I did it would've been 2 stars at that point. Although things are happening it doesn’t really go anywhere and the first 1/3 of the book is just kind of Maya running around town fighting off various monsters in between worrying about her dad. It took me nearly a week to get through the first half of the book.

Then around page 150 or so the plot suddenly takes off and I couldn't put it down. I read the second half of the book in a day and a half. It's suddenly nonstop adventure in a creepy, enemy-filled land where the kids have only their newfound, unpredictable powers against a literal monster army, where the stakes are the death of humanity. If Maya and her friends had entered the Dark much earlier in the story I would easily have given this 5 stars.

The diversity in this book is wonderful and the characters are memorable but I found Maya annoying at times and felt like the author was trying a little too hard to make sure we knew she was a quippy preteen. Her friend Eli was fun and I think I might have smiled once or twice at his jokes, plus I really liked the fact that he was both the silly comedic relief and also a responsible, doting big brother, but their trio was rounded out by Frankie, easily the best character in the book. Frankie is quirky without trying to be, incredibly self-sacrificing and loyal but takes zero shit, has the most interesting backstory of the three, plus she's a literal genius. The supporting cast was fun and just a little over the top but that really only added to the magic of the story. Maya's mom is, predictably, a nothing character who basically just shows up to scold her for sneaking off to literally save the world.

When Maya & Friends enter the Dark, everything picks up to 11. Suddenly the stakes are much higher and the world is much more interesting. The only part of the world building I found frustrating is the fact that Maya often wonders and asks questions about the Dark that are never answered. For example: what are the regular citizens of the Dark like, the ones who aren't fighting with the Lord of Shadows to destroy the world? She wonders about them a lot but we never see them. Also, I wanted a lot more information and page time for secondary villain Nulan, but I expect she'll show up in the next book.

I'd give the second half of this book 5 stars but I'm subtracting a star for the meandering plot at the beginning and the occasional "trying to hard" feel of the writing. I didn't think I'd be saying this when I started the book, but I really am looking forward to reading the sequel.
Profile Image for Kelvin.
112 reviews15 followers
June 26, 2022
I’m reaching a point where I’m trying my best not to DFN books. I’m more or less putting these books on hold for the time being instead of outright abandoning them. Unfortunately, MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is joining the unpopular club of books I’m putting on hold.

For one, I’ve been kind of stuck reading this book for several months, whereas books of similar page lengths or even greater I’ve been able to clear in under a week’s worth time of reading. It’s obvious enough that it isn’t the page count that makes the reading a slough, but the story and the writing itself. For the most part, this book is rather simply written, and there is nothing wrong with simple prose, except the narrative comes off wooden and nothing really pops off the page. I was stuck on the last part I’d thought to be stuck on, an action scene, where the main character and her friends battle monsters and whatnot, and yet… the scene just came off more like I was reading a checklist of details setting the scene of the fight rather than a fluid fight scene. Not to mention the scene transitions within this book are convoluted. Characters would go from sitting around their living room/classroom to being outside in the middle of a playground park in the same sentence. Factor in the lack of description and this makes things even more confusing.

This story is set on the South Side of Chicago, but it could have very well taken place literally anywhere else and nothing in the narrative would have been affected as a result. The lack of descriptions of the neighborhood and the city is very apparent. No description of the ‘L rumbling past on its elevated tracks? Kids getting their hair braided on the front porches of homes? Kids playing basketball/Double Dutch in the middle of the street? Friends and neighbors just outside clowning on one another. No impromptu block parties where residents and the police hang out for a spell? No Cars blasting loud music out the windows or motorcycles revving past, or the way the Chicago skyline glitters at night? The odd part is that the author includes almost ALL the above points in the book… except they’re just told to the reader. You don’t actually see any of it really factor into the story or have any real impact on the characters at all. As I said, this story could have been set in San Francisco or Miami or even London and Hong Kong and would have played out the same.

The plot starts late. Usually, I don’t have an issue with this if I’m enjoying the characters enough. Maya and her friends (I’ve already forgotten their names, so I had to relook them up) were just… all right in my books. They’re pretty cliched with Frankie being the nerd who uses big words and wears thick glasses and their other friend (I think his name is Eli) was the clown/jokester and Maya was the headstrong leader of the trio. Nothing real spectacular about them, but since this book is geared toward young readers, they’re doable for what they provide.

In the end, I may or may not return to this series. There’s not much here that piqued my interests, and, in the end, I may just wind up leaving this book permanently DNF.
Profile Image for Meghan.
2,085 reviews
December 16, 2019
This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I absolutely loved everything about this book. Such an enticing tale of Maya and the dreams she has been having that she first thinks of messages from her family especially her papa. Later on she realizes that these visual dreams might mean more to her than she thinks and might be key for progression along in her life. When her papa disappears, Maya's world has turned upside down and all she has to rely on is her dreams of darkness she's had. Maya later finds out that she is a godling, half human, half god and the dreams she has been having are signs of her special gift. She later comes face to face with the Lord of Shadows who happens to be the man in all of her dreams. He is set on destroying the human world and it is up to Maya to stop him and save the world. This book definitely was similar to Aru Shah but I also saw some similarities to the Percy Jackson series as well so fans of Percy Jackson will appreciate this book as well. I hope this continues and becomes a series and I know our young readers will love this.

We will consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
98 reviews
September 5, 2020
A fantastic fantasy! Maya embarks on a quest to save her missing dad. As she learns about this magical world that was brought upon her, she uncovers that she is half orisha, half human, as are her friends. Together they journey through wormholes, battling darkbringers to rescue her dad and repair the world. I loved the message of friends battling by your side & uncovering your hidden strengths.
Profile Image for Kiel.
112 reviews
May 5, 2021
I had high hopes for this one, and it's ok, but I just couldn't get invested. I think younger middle grade student's will enjoy it, but the writing, characters, and narrative, don't translate up far in age range. It just has narrower age appeal than I prefer, and I don't think it will read as well for older middle grade students.
Profile Image for jessica.
272 reviews16 followers
August 4, 2021
this was...fine.

i like the concept. the mc was annoying. i'm also not crazy fond of plots that develop bc of character's stupid decisions. like, bad things keep happening, and she keeps questioning why people didn't help/wouldn't do things by themselves and wanted to wait for help. i wonder, maya. i wonder.
Profile Image for Nikki.
964 reviews50 followers
November 13, 2020
Honestly a super fun and lovely middle grade read! This had everything you need - adventure, myths, super powers, friendship, family, and a great bad guy! I also found the West African influences beautifully done and well explained for an audience (like me) that might not be as familiar with them.

There are some lovely quiet nods to Percy Jackson, but this easily stands on it’s own two feet.

Maya is a great lead, and I also adore her two friends, Eli and Frankie. We get some quick backstory on them all, but it’s against the main backdrop of what Maya is going through and seeing. All done in a Chicago neighbourhood that is strangely full of people who know what’s up ;) That was one of my favourite things actually - such a good idea to have neighbourhoods for goslings and the Orisha. I also particularly love Frankie’s love of science and how she tries to explain everything - so nice to see magic and science not needing to fight!

The adventure itself is fun and full of just the right amount of peril and diversions. I loved that the kids really had no idea what they were doing or what to expect, and realised this very fast! But they learn quick, and soon are making some well educated guesses on how to get by :D

The lord of shadows is a perfectly creepy and wonderful bad guy - though I’d have liked to have seen a little more of him, I sure we will in future books!

I definitely recommend this for middle grade lovers - especially if you want to widen your mythical knowledge! 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for r..
77 reviews20 followers
September 11, 2020
This book is ADORABLE. The writing drew me in right away—light and easy to read. I could feel the love Maya had for her family and them for her, and her friends as well. All of the characters felt real and complicated. I loved Maya's voice, and I loved her coming into her strength. I loved the Comic-Con references and I love the idea of parallel universes and secrets in our world right under our noses. In this case, the Dark, which is like a flip turned upside down version of our world.

I love when kids have powers, and I was thrilled when Maya got the staff. Look at her on the cover holding that thing! And I have a weakness for mysterious old ladies and there are two of them in this book.

I felt like the author got a lot of joy out of writing this book, and it shows in the words and the story. I'm very much looking forward to the next in the series!
Profile Image for Shannon (That's So Poe).
1,022 reviews108 followers
January 9, 2022
If you want an action-packed middle grade filled with awesome Orisha magic, you are in the right place! This book was such a fun ride with a huge focus on community, friends, and family. I loved especially that Maya has anemia that she has to deal with as she's fighting monsters, but she's very definitely the hero of the story and very capable, not disempowering her simply because she has a health issue. The way that the story talked about the monsters and the gods in this also had a lot of nuance that I'm really looking forward to seeing explored more in the rest of the series. The pacing is a little fast for me, but it's probably perfect for kids!

Content Warnings:
injury, death of a family member, violence
Profile Image for Layla Crowie.
494 reviews4 followers
June 15, 2021
Magical and fast paced, Maya and the Rising Dark doesn't beat around the bush and throws the reader right into the action.

It is beautifully written and jam packed with adventure, self discovery and the love that comes from friends and family. I adore the way that Rena really draws her readers into the world, and paints it's history with such vivid imagery.

For fans of magical realism, ancient African gods and loyal friend groups - Maya and the Rising Dark is for you!
Profile Image for Lindsay Lemus.
255 reviews16 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 21, 2023
After reading some more and researching more into the origin of this story, I'm going to DNF this. This isn't a story I'm comfortable with personally and think it's too dark for children in my opinion. This has an audience and I'm not it.
Profile Image for Ashley.
190 reviews7 followers
April 3, 2021
This was such a fun, action-packed MG fantasy!
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