Tuesday, November 10, 2020

MG review of Toro by Andrew Avner

Toro by Andrew Avner 
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Black Rose Writing
Number of pages:  114
Published:  September 17th, 2020
Source: Herrea Agency in exchange for an honest review 

Opening Lines:  "Bright rays of sun bore down on sharp young shadows at the break of dawn."

Toro is set in Pamplona, Spain just before Feria del Toro or the Festival of the Bulls is to begin.   Alicía Catalina Cortés has a dream to take after her father and compete in the running of the bulls.  She has the speed, tenacity and will, but given she's a cow, it's forbidden for her to compete.  Per tradition, only the bulls have the honor of representing their family and running in the race.  Alicía's father, Don Cortés tries to get her to "embrace her fate" by marrying her off to Don Juliaín, but Alicía can't bear the thought of being forced into marriage, so she runs away.   

Diego Del Toro is a bull who is being forced to run in Pamplona, when his dream is to perform in an American rodeo.  Despite his family wanting him to compete, his heart is just not in the race so Diego also runs away.  Along the way, Diego witnesses Don Juliaín attacking Alicía for running away from him, and Diego helps her to escape.  As the two begin to talk about their dreams,  Alicía begins to see an opportunity to replace Diego in the race by disguising herself as a bull.  Diego is free to find a rodeo to perform in and she can go on to Pamplona to live out her dream.  Yet unbeknownst to Alicía there is still something she doesn't know about the race, a secret her father never mentioned about the race, and by planning to run with the bulls she is putting herself in grave danger.

I think at one time or another everyone has heard of Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, or maybe even seen images of the bulls chasing down spectators and participants during the race.  It's a rite of passage, or perhaps a personal challenge, but I don't think there are many that have seen it from Avner's perspective, or from the perspective of a Vaca or cow.  This certainly was an interesting way to present the theme of overcoming obstacles, striving for your dreams, and gender equality.  

 Alicía is feisty, strong willed and determined to break away from her father and the festival's tradition.  Early on we see her skills as she races her brothers across the farm, she's faster and very capable.  When her father forbids her from competing, she's upset with how he infers she's not able to do what they do and instead should embrace breeding strong sons and learn to obey her soon to be husband.  Alicía is an empowering character who never backs down, even when she's bruised and battered by Don Juliaín.  I quite liked Diego as well.  Especially when he makes the distinction between "what you are" and "who you are." Which you'll have to read the book to understand for yourself.    Overall Toro was a highly entertaining read and I especially enjoyed learning more about the Spanish tradition of running of the bulls and containing both the Spanish and English translations for the various words used added to my overall enjoyment of the story.  From the reviews I've read the audiobook is also very well done.  TORO  has been nominated for a Cybils Award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category, for which I am a second round judge, and is being considered for the Odyssey AwardNewbery Medal, and National Book Award.  ** Thank you to the author and Herrea Agency for my review copy. ** 


Natalie Aguirre said...

I just heard about this book. I don't know much about the Spanish tradition of running bulls either. Glad you enjoyed it.

DMS said...

I am glad you enjoyed this one. I had the opportunity to read and review an arc of this one- but it came at a time when I was just too busy, so I had to pass. Sounds like a great read!