This was an advanced reader copy for the September 2018 publication. There are minor spoilers ahead.
Title: The Storm Runner
Author: J. C. Cervantes
I like to think I can own up to a bias. For this book, I had two conflicting ones: 1) I love Rick Riordan’s work (putting aside anything his son was involved with thus far); 2) the basic marketing aspects (cover art, book blurb, etc.) for this book were horrible.
Why was the cover art bad? Way too busy. However, the cover art on the ARC isn’t the final, so I’m hoping they pick a color theme or – if they want to go colortastic as it is – they alter the set-up so it flows better. As far as I go, it’s too busy and sectioned in such a way that cutting off the top quarter or bottom would make the whole fit better.
Why was the blurb bad? I’m hoping this was meant to be an overly long tagline, but it felt too muck like Rick Riordan and not enough like J. C. Cervantes. This could be a control issue. Sometimes authors don’t make great publishers / editors.
All in all – from the onset, I liked Cervantes’s other work – Tortilla Sun – better. It had a clean cover (though still colorful), and the back blurb sounded unique. A strong perspective without particular reliance on anyone else.
So – I wasn’t exactly a blank slate walking into this book. I expected an overly Riordan-ized Mayan mythology retelling that treated Cervantes more like a ghost writer with actual credit than anything else. Not a positive thought from a hispanohablante but I’m not latinx, so – that’s all I’ll say about my concern / preemptive disappointment on that one.
On the actual plot –
Zane grew on me, but he’s a complainer. In the Riordan realm, he’s more a Magnus Chase than a Percy, but there’s a number of Leo elements (hot tempered, fire associated, mix of self-deprivation and ego used to hide such, etc.) or even just Hephaestus (limp, fire association, parental issues).
Every other character – from Zane’s mother to his love interest to his enemy – tied so closely with every other series Riordan has touched that I stepped back half way through to debate if it was the religious repetition I was noticing or the writing. Clearly, pantheons have a particular villainous type – or divine scapegoat. Heroes are expected to have understanding mothers, and the love interest has to play some semi-antagonistic role.
The latter generally seems to come as snark and/or deliberately keeping information from the hero either to ‘protect him’ or earn some sort of accolade at the hero’s expense. Brook – while interesting – fit far too well into this archtype.
All in all, I liked Hondo best – though he also had his particular jester archtype. Having an English degree, I’ve had the repetitious reality of hero tales drilled into my head. I had hoped seeing it told from a new perspective would avoid the mold at least in part. That was not the case.
People who love Riordan’s work and were able to read all of his series, you’ll probably love this one too. However, that’s the tragedy. Most readers will walk away, forgetting Cervantes is the author. Cervantes wrote this book. Maybe it was over-edited. Maybe she wanted it to fit the pre-set constructs of her editor’s work. Either way, I suspect she’ll have the same result as many ghostwriters. Nobody will remember her name, but they’ll talk about the ‘good new story’ from the famous name on the front cover.