A. E. Reads: Maya and the Rising Dark [Book Review]

Today’s A. E. Reads book review is on Maya and the Rising Dark, a 2020 middle grade novel written by Rena Barron. I found this book by looking up middle grade books with black characters and came across a whole slew of books to read.

After much debate over the lists, my top choice to read was Maya and the Rising Dark and here is my A. E. Reads review on Rena Barron’s debut novel.

Maya and the Rising Dark features the titular character Maya on a quest to save her father who’s been kidnapped by the villainous Lord of Shadows. Maya is somewhat fearless, rushing head on to attack foes and defend herself and her friends. At the same time, she is emotionally vulnerable, and her friends do their best to cheer her up when she starts to doubt herself and her abilities.

What I truly love the most is the modern day application of the Yoruba people’s religion and their deities called the orisha. I knew of the orisha before this book, but seeing them as characters in a middle grade story was an outstanding surprise and a very welcome one.

For those who aren’t aware, orisha are the main deities or spirits of the Yoruba religion of West Africa, among others. They come into major focus in Maya and the Rising Dark as key characters, and how they are interwoven into it is really great.

Along with the orisha, I found the three protagonists a delight to read.

Maya, who is the main character and has a lot of growing up to do, so watching her grow and change as the series progresses is something I’m looking forward to.

Frankie, who comes in clutch with her scientific knowledge, and the fact she is full of sometimes useful trivia is so much like me that she’s honestly my favorite of the three.

And Eli, who seems like a jokey jokester but is actually really smart and is taking note of everything.

I really think Maya and the Rising Dark has all it needs to become the next best-selling midgrade series. The magic element with the orisha is top-notch. The main three protags who get the story going and keep it going. The writing is crisp and clear and funny.


I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a great fun interesting midgrade novel featuring black characters, and especially a main black girl protagonist.

Hey Readers! If you liked this A. E. Reads post, why not read my other posts here on my author website? Try out any of my past A. E. Reads posts. My previous post introduces my new novel Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra, and my next post begins a series on world-building. If you want to keep up with my posts, consider following and get an email direct to your inbox each time I post! Hope to see you there!

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