I love mythology. Legends, heroes, gods, monsters, all of it. I have since I was kid, when I read stuff like Beowulf and the Odyssey in middle school on my own. I dare say that mythology is what got me into fantasy really, the idea that there are these powerful forces and things out there from ancient time. Suffice to say, when I ran across Rick Riordan and his Lightning Thief when it first released, I found myself entranced.
Since then I have devoured all his books, and a few months ago I started checking to see when his next book was coming when I discovered his new “Rick Riordan Presents” imprint, which he created to help feature new Young Adult authors who wrote similar stuff to him, books with a focus on modern mythology.
The Storm Runner is the first one from that Imprint that I decided to grab, and I am glad I did. This book is an excellent read, start to finish, with a good focus on Maya mythology and features exactly what I was hoping for: A spunky hero, gods, monsters, sarcasm, sacrifice, and heroism. Also it was a lot darker then what I figured it would be. Now, there will be a minor spoiler further in the review, so if you want a TLDR summary here it is: Go buy this book if you like any of Riordan’s Demigod stuff because it fits right into that world.
Let’s begin my review, as I always do, with the amazon excerpt:
A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents!
Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. “The Beast,” as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.
After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane’s doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don’t usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane’s. No way, Zane thinks. He’s just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death.
But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world. Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.
Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.
So this story is centered our Zane, a young boy living in New Mexico with his mother and uncle. Zane is fairly unique in that he is a disabled protagonist. One of his legs is shorter than the other, and no one has ever figured out why. Because of this, he walks with a cane and its explained that he is frequently bullied by other kids in school. When the story starts, he is finishing a year of home schooling and facing the prospect of having to go to a private Catholic school. He is generally accompanied by his 3 legged Boxer / Dalmatian dog named Rosie, who I adored.
Oh, and he has a Volcano in his back yard called the Beast. Yes, really. And it’s important.
I felt for Zane. I grew up being bullied nearly constantly myself, although mine was due to my weight and hobbies at the time. I understood him and his contrary nature, his need to prove himself and his desire to avoid school. He is incredibly well written all things considered. He does end up having to go to school, meets a girl named Brooks, and then things start going off the rails really quickly. Turns out, according to Brooks, that Zane is not quite human. He is a supernatural, and is destined by prophecy to unleash the ancient Maya God of Death Ah Puch from where he was imprisoned.
Now, here is the little spoiler I do have to mention. This particular event occurs about 20% of the way through the book. SPOILER ALERT: Despite everyone around him trying to stop it, Zane does indeed release the God of Death and even makes a bargain with him in an effort to save those who cares about. And the rest of the story is all about Zane, Brooks, and Zane’s uncle Hondo’s journey into the world of Maya Mythology in an attempt to STOP Ah Puch from getting revenge, and also along the way finding out just who Zane really is. It’s an adventure and a half and my only real complaint is that it eventually ended.
Also, I am STILL very very upset about Rosie. The author knows what she did. And yes, it all ends up ok at the end but I AM STILL MAD. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID CERVANTES!
Anyway! This book is just completely fantastic. What surprised me was how dark it got at times. While Riordan’s own work features dark / adult bits at times, Maya mythology itself is actually pretty messed up. I mean, it’s a mythology borne from a culture that involved human sacrifice, so I am not surprised that its monsters and gods are not very pleasant at all. It almost felt a little like a Horror Fantasy book at times. The descriptions of several of the horrible demons from the Underworld alone were freaky, as was the depiction of an area called “The Old World” later in the book.
The characters, by and large, are all awesome as well. Zane’s uncle Hondo is a personal favorite. A janitor at night, Hondo is a huge pro wrestling fan and goes full on nuts when trying to help his nephew throughout their journey and I adore it. My only real issue is with Brooks. Now, Brooks is written great and everything and she is consistent, but I don’t like her as a person. She frequently holds information back from Zane in an effort to “protect” him, but all she ends up doing generally is making things worse. Zane is a contrary sort of person, and he clearly wants all the information before making decisions, but when people refuse to give him that, he attempts in general to prove them wrong. I have the same tendency and it does get a person in trouble, so folks like Brooks, who always hold things back, irritate me to no end.
The pace of the story is also excellent. There is no waste here, every section has a purpose to either let us know about the characters more, or about the world they inhabit, or move the story forward. It’s all just good stuff. I also like the portrayal of the Maya Gods in this quite a bit. Ah Puch is…creepy, scary, and horrible all at the same time while also being smooth as silk. Thankfully, the book is also a complete story despite also having a twist ending / surprise ending during the Epilogue, which was a welcome addition! Also, as a note, I did not expect the twist at ALL I was completely surprised, and I am betting you will be as well. And it perfectly sets up the sequel.
Suffice to say I am eagerly awaiting the sequel to this, and there is a sequel coming. So if Ms. Cervantes reads this and wants to give me an advanced copy I would not say no. Just saying! You can purchase The Storm Runner on Amazon HERE, and I rated this a 5/5 on both Amazon and Goodreads. Also if this is the quality I can expect from other “Rick Riordan Presents” titles I am in for a treat I can promise you that. There is already books involving Hindu mythology and Korean mythology out that I aim to get to at some point! Also the Korean Mythology based on, Dragon Pearl, is Fantasy Sci Fi? That’s wild!