Review of Maya and the Rising Dark

Maya and the Rising Dark
by Rena Barron
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    304 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-328-63518-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-10622-7    $9.99

Twelve-year-old Maya is seeing things, or so she thinks, as weird creatures start appearing in her Chicago neighborhood. Add to that her dreams about a scary shadow-man, and Maya has cause for concern. That concern turns to outright fear when her father, who guards the veil between dimensions, is kidnapped by the Lord of the Shadows, the scary man in her dreams. Maya and her friends, Frankie and Eli, set off on a quest to find Maya’s missing dad, face their fears, and contend with powers and worlds they never knew existed. This story features well-executed world-building; complex characters in a diverse cast (Frankie has two mothers, the school principal uses inclusive pronouns); loving, supportive families; and a tight-knit community within a large city. Maya’s adventure is steeped in West African mythology, as she learns that she is part orisha and must quickly learn the ropes of the mystical world. Readers, too, are introduced to the world of West African culture, folklore, and spirituality, with nuance about the binaries of good and evil. A welcome addition to middle-grade fantasy centering Black characters, the story is a page-turning ride that will leave readers eager for more.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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