I got an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Storm Runner. As this means the version I read is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In the newest publication by imprint Rick Riordan Presents, J. C. Cervantes’ book The Storm Runner, young New Mexico teen Zane Obispo finds himself in an insane situation. He learns that the volcano he’s grown up climbing is the prison for the Mayan god of death — a god Zane is supposed to free, according to an ancient prophecy.
It’s a fun adventure, with a shape-shifting nawal girl, a surf shop-owning giant, a fist-swinging luchador uncle, and a dog named Rosie helping Zane. Their journey takes them across the country and to new worlds of Mayan mythology.
First and foremost, I rather liked the bond established between Zane and his father. It’s quite a complicated line the latter walks, somewhere between protective and distant, fond and dismissive. This was probably the best part, when Zane spoke to him. I’d even dare say the way his sense of abandonment and resentment is handled and presented better than how similar things were in Percy Jackson, with Percy and his father. I quite liked the tension and uneasiness here with Zane and his dad.
But there’s another even more important aspect makes me love Rick Riordan Presents: allowing underrepresented groups have a chance to be the hero, to be in the spotlight. In this case, Zane is not only a kid of South American descent who speaks both English and Spanish, but he also has a leg shorter and smaller than the other. This causes him to limp and use a cane. However, while he is self-conscious about this (and has been teased at school), his leg proves to be a source of genuine power. It is portrayed as a strength rather than a weakness, and that is a wonderful, empowering message.
On the other hand, while this book has many strengths, it is not perfect. For one thing, the pacing seemed a little bit off. It seemed to take a long time before Zane went off on his quest — at least a hundred pages, in fact. And in a book that’s just over 400, that seemed odd to me. Granted, a lot or relevant stuff happens at home before the physical journey begins, but it surprised me. I wonder if some of it — like Ms. Cab’s story or information about Brooks — couldn’t have been learned while traveling, because once they got going it seemed to take no time at all to reach their destination. Perhaps I’ve read too many of these, but I’d expected more obstacles on the way, I guess?
Furthermore, the book starts out being very much like the first Percy Jackson book: a young boy with a single mother is attacked by a frightening monster. He then learns that gods (in this case, Mayan ones) are real, and everything snowballs from there. Due to the basic similarities of structure, this is a slightly predictable tale. It’s pretty much the hero’s journey as the story progresses.
The characters are fine in general, but not all that rounded. They only have a few characteristics and are given minimal backstories. However, this is the first book of a series, I believe, so I can only assume that following installments will provide what was missing here.
All in all, I liked this book. It’s entertaining, has quite a few laughs, a likable protagonist, a cool mythology. The side characters do their jobs, though not much more, and once the adventure finally gets going, it’s very diverting. While I think the pacing and backstories could have been improved, this is still worth a read. It’s about time there was some representation for people like Zane, after all!
Overall rating: 8/10
What’s your favorite lesser-known (at least in the Western world) mythology?