[A quick note: I love how cute this little soapstone giraffe looks with this cover. I’ve never had much opportunity to show it off in the past, so this is its time in the limelight. I got it in the village of Tanaka, Kenya and it’s one of my favorite pieces. I got a couple others that I gave away to family. But this one is special to me because as a 6’ tall human, giraffes with their long necks have always been my spirit animal. I loved seeing them on the Serengeti.]
“𝐋𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐤𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐤𝐢𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐝𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞.”—Tony Debajo
I want to preface this by saying that after spending a summer in Africa on a medical mission trip, I fell in love with the country, with the people, the stories, the varied cultures, the land. There aren’t a lot of mainstreamed stories out there that highlight African culture and history, but this is changing; I’m seeing more of them. So when Tony Debajo approached me with his book, I was very excited!
This story is based on west African folklore that the author grew up with. It’s the kind of first-hand experience I love to see from someone who didn’t just resort to google alone. The writing is elegant and feels very much like a campfire story, like I was sitting with the author listening to him tell it. It’s also from 3rd person omniscient, which is a unique perspective you don’t often see in writing. There’s tons of action, a host of characters and perspectives, and a rich setting with layers of world building. It feels authentic in every sense of the word.
The story mostly follows five main characters. We see King Jide and his brother Olise. We also see Jide’s three children: Toju, Niran, and the youngest, Enitan. My favorites were the young princes. I related most to them as characters. We also get to see some more minor perspectives, sometimes in the form of a warrior who is about to die, or from the blood warriors sworn to protect the princess, king, etc. The main storyline is woven with a historical storyline that sets the scene for the events happening at present. This helps shed light on why things have gotten so out of hand.
The crux of the matter is this: the king’s brother is a usurper. Olise believes it’s his right to rule. Thus begins a bloody war that ends in heartbreak. Reading this felt like reading the rich history of a warrior people. Plus, it is a series so the subsequent books will continue to follow certain characters.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book. Some of which I already mentioned. I really loved the way the author handled multiple characters, the detailed world building, and some really bad-ass fighting scenes! I must give a round of applause for the battle scenes especially. These were done really well, and at times, a bit gory. But aren’t all battles gory? I loved getting to jump around during the battle and see it from different perspectives. And this author was NOT afraid to kill people off, which is commendable. It also feels more realistic this way.
There were also a couple of things that resulted in a lower star rating. Some were more minor, like the heavier emphasis placed on telling rather than showing. But the biggest negative for me was this: I would have liked to see some character growth among the main characters. This felt more like a plot driven story vs a character driven story. I wanted to see some obvious character flaws apparent early on—flaws that each character was forced to overcome. Even if this had been limited to a couple key characters, I would have felt a bit more satisfied. Character arcs are all about conquering fears, overcoming a lack of confidence, coming of age, etc.
We see the characters traverse the events of the story without emphasis placed on having to overcome any of their own internal conflict (because I’m not sure there was any?). Yes, they must deal with some VERY serious external conflict, but I always look for the internal struggle happening in parallel. In other words, what did each character learn? Perhaps Jide learned not to deal with the dark arts? There wasn’t much emphasis placed on this. An arc is what makes a character more memorable to me. It’s what signifies why a story should matter to to me, the reader. I’ve docked 1.5 stars because that feels like a critical component of the story. Everything else was done splendidly!
I believe this book has great appeal to certain readers. If you love unique cultures, rich world building, and lots of battles and fighting scenes, this is for you! 𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟑.𝟓⭐️
A huge thank you to the author for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.