I want to take a minute to applaud Rick Riordan for knowing what he doesn’t know. I want to thank him for knowing that perhaps his voice isn’t the voice that should bring to the masses all of the mythologies of the world. Yesterday, I finished the second entry in his Rick Riordan Presents imprint—The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes.
The first entry in the Rick Riordan Presents imprint was Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. A novel with Hindu mythology as its base. The Storm Runner uses Mexican myths. Aru Shah was a difficult read for me. In the end, I found myself enjoying it enough to be excited for the second entry in the series. Even though the novel was an up and down, back and forth experience for me I was happy to see powerful brown girl representation at the middle grade level. Not only great brown girl representation, but an opportunity to learn a great deal more about Hindu mythology. I was hoping The Storm Runner would offer me the same education on Mexican mythology, but without the ups and downs.
It did just that. The Storm Runner set near as seemingly dormant volcano in New Mexico introduces us to Zane Obispo, his strange neighbors, his Uncle Hondo, his dog Rosie, his mom, and Brooks, the mysterious cute girl. Zane has been burdened with terrible purpose. According to prophecy, he is destined to release a terrible demon into the world. It seems like it would be an easy enough prophecy to avoid, but destiny is destiny. Sounds like a good time to me, and it was.
I will say that I was momentarily concerned because I wasn’t immediately drawn into the story, which is just to say that the exposition felt a bit slow. I’m always looking for the instant enchantment I had with the first in the Percy series. I didn’t find it here, but it didn’t take long for me to embrace Zane, his family, and his friends. As it turned out, Zane offered some awesome brown boy representation, which is fantastic. I also loved seeing the disability rep in the book, and the way it tied into the overall mythology and thematic elements. It did all of these things in an appealing and action-packed adventure with a side of incredibly disgusting monsters—the descriptions hit me on a visceral level. Middle schoolers are going to love those monsters.
You know what else was great? The way Cervantes leaned into and broke out of the Riordan mold. Riordan’s brand of sass wasn’t as pervasive here as in Aru Shah, but I didn’t miss it here. Don’t get me wrong the comedy is here, but you don’t drown in it. This book strikes a nice balance. We got what we needed from the Riordan brand. We have a kid with physical and emotional struggles, a family made, a destiny, a quest, sidekicks and helpers, and the child of a god—Mayan in this case.
Other than the slow start and some limited character development for a few of the characters (but that’s what a series is for) The Storm Runner is a worthy read. It's a solid middle grade and a fantastic series starter. Reading this felt good and familiar. Sometimes I neglect my middle grade friends, but they deserve the same attention and glory we often heap upon YA.
Next up for me is another middle grade. It also happens to be the third entry from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. It’s Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, which finds its foundation in Korean mythology. It’s also a space adventure. And the main characters are fox spirits who have used their shape shifting powers to pass as humans in a world where their kind is feared and vilified. I’m excited.