Ready to be a hero? The words echoed in my ears and pounded in my skull as images of Eddie and Brer Fox came to mind. In both those instances, I’d failed to help anybody. This would be the third attempt, and this time there were even more lives at stake. I might strike out for good. I backed up, nearly stumbling in my haste, and shook my head.


Kwame Mbalia

This is the third Rick Riordan Presents book I’ve read/tried to read. The first two I gave up at some point for one reason or another (why would I want to talk about books I don’t like?), so I feel good there was finally one I was able to get hooked on.

Just barely.

Tristan Strong is a young boy from Chicago with a family penchant for boxing, something he actually has very little interest in. After his first fight goes horribly wrong, his parents think he may need some more time away from the city, especially after the death of his friend, Eddie, whom Tristan believes he failed to save. Upon visiting his Nana and Granddad’s farm, he finds himself accidentally stumbling, quite literally, into a world of gods and myths who just so happen to need Tristan’s help and his new penchant, for weaving stories, to save the day.

Where the other two RRP books failed to capture me was the main characters feeling inauthentic, along with the surrounding myths. Tristan is an extremely likable kid with extremely likable reactions. While sometimes you feel Mbalia’s voice coming through (What 7th grade casually drops “cumulonimbus” into their speech? Because I’d like to meet that kid.), he feels real, as real as Percy Jackson, the notable lead of the Rick Riordan Enterprises Pantheon of Kid Heroes Inc.

So that’s good.

The myths, while ones I’m mostly unfamiliar with, are well fleshed out and given just enough backstory to make you want to look them up. I remember reading The Lightning Thief with my students every year and every year a student would bring up some variation of a mythology book because they wanted to learn more about them. I’d also assign some fun work to go along with it, designing gods, and so on. This book and its interpretations made me feel the same way. You want to hang out with Gum Baby (barring the insults) and gain wisdom from John Henry. Authentic is the word I keep using and it has it.

Would I read this aloud to my class? No, I don’t think so. The prose doesn’t flow as well for reading aloud, and it sags in certain places (I tried comparing page 150 of this book to page 150 of the first Percy Jackson book to see how much had actually happened) but overall, I had a great time.

Thanks for reading,

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