Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #CulturalFiction In The Shadow Of Ruin by @tdebajo

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading In The Shadow Of Ruin by Tony Debajo

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Tony Debajo’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Ruin, is a novel of generations. There is great strength and potency to be drawn from telling family epics, the weight of legacy and the making or breaking of kindred ties are as universal as any story telling tradition from any time or place.

That said, when we’re speaking about generations, readers should be aware that implied in that are many, many characters to keep track of. There is the first king, who had two wives, who each bore a prince. One of the princes becomes the second king and has three sons in turn, the other prince becomes an outcast with his witch mother. All of the kings and sons and princes have attendant bodyguards, advisors, tribal chiefs they consult with, and paths that they must follow, geographically and spiritually, across the novel, and on a technical level it’s a lot for both a reader and an author to balance.

It is a good thing, then, that Debajo seems to be something of a gymnast, deftly crafting his narrative across two timelines, a half dozen primary characters, and the expansive landscape that he has built for all of this to play out in.

Woven throughout the narrative are the gods of Nigeria, the Orisa, who help or hinder our protagonists and antagonists as gods are wont to do. The Nigerian pantheon is not one I am familiar with outside of their representations in the most recent season of American Gods (2017-present), so getting this take on the Orisa in their “natural habitat”, as opposed to transplants like all the deities brought to America in the TV show, was delicious. They fit the landscape and the narrative as naturally as any of the mortal characters.

The battles, and there are several to be expected when an exiled prince makes a bid to steal his brother’s throne, are appropriately epic in scale and bloody in detail. After the palace is sacked and the royal city burned, the three sons of the second king scatter to allies at three points of the compass and their journeys, likewise, are as arduous as you would expect for fugitives fleeing a wicked uncle. The terrain they flee across is lush in detail, textured by an author with an obvious familiarity and love for the world he has created.

Before wrapping up this review, I will give one spoiler—there is a major cliffhanger. The last pages of In the Shadow of Ruin make it painfully obvious that there is more to come from what Debajo has tantalizingly named his Fractured Kingdom Series. A frustration for greedy readers like me, because we’ll just have to wait for the next one and I’m not always good at waiting.

An excellent first outing for Debajo and a fabulous book for anyone looking for a family epic, a mythic landscape, and a bloody good time, In the Shadow of Ruin does not disappoint on any level.

4/5- but only because I’ll have to wait for the next one.

Desc 1

King Jide Adelani has ruled the lands of the Yoruba in West Africa for many peaceful years, but now his kingdom is in turmoil and the cold grasp of death’s embrace is closing in around everything he holds dear.

Jide spent years garnering the respect and loyalty of the tribes in the hopes of uniting them into one cohesive empire when his half-brother, Prince Olise, returns from banishment to claim the throne as his own.

The offspring of a union between the late King Adeosi and the evil enchantress Ekaete, the bitter Olise has devoted the last decade to one purpose; to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. If he fails, he risks his name being erased from the history of the tribes.

With the support of his mother, a powerful witch whose name is whispered in fear across the lands of the tribes, the outcast Olise now seems unstoppable in achieving his goal.

Facing overwhelming military might and dark forces that he cannot comprehend, Jide must either choose to ignore the warnings of the gods, and seek help from those who also practice dark arts; or risk losing his kingdom.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Nigerian #CulturalFiction In the Shadow of Ruin by @tdebajo

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sue has been reading In the Shadow of Ruin by Tony Debajo

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In the Shadow of Ruin, the first book in The Fractured Kingdom series, is a fascinating insight into Nigerian culture, history and folklore.

A war is raging between King Jide and his half brother, prince Olise in Yoruba, West Africa.

“There comes a time when every man must stand and fight, discarding all his fears and embracing his fate.”

This novel is written from multiple points of view and each one is engaging and intriguing. There are also many tribes and names to get used to – which I found a little confusing. There is a useful list of the tribes and characters and a glossary at the beginning of the book for the unfamiliar African terms, but I find when I’m reading a digital copy of a book I tend not to refer back to these as often as I might with a print version.

We learn through flashbacks that Jide’s mother, Bunmi, died soon after his birth after making a pact with the river goddess who demanded a life for a life. Following her death King Adeosi hastily married Ekaete who is known to practice occult black magic, known as juju. King Adeosi’s health declined in conjunction with the growth of Ekaete’s baby. She didn’t leave his side until he passed away, which suggests she was poisoning him.

In the present her son, Olise, is now at war with King Jide and Ekaete is using all kinds of black magic to help his cause. Olise, via his mother’s counsel, has taken captive the children of the various tribal leaders in order to force them onto his side in the war. Jide, however, is a respected and merciful king.

“Olise’s birth would henceforth be attributed to the single moment the destiny of the tribes was irrefutably altered.”

Selfish Toju, wise Niran and the youngest Enitan, are King Jide’s three sons and each are written with a distinctly different personality. They managed to escape the palace while Olise’s army sacked their capital city of Ile-Ife. The two eldest are fleeing together at first, later splitting up, along with their blood guards, having seen their mother dying in the palace. They are driven by vengeance for their Mother’s death and a need to keep their bloodline alive and gain followers to take on their uncle Olise. The youngest son, Enitan is traveling in a different direction, towards his mother’s family, unaware that his father and brothers are still alive.

Tony Debajo has a lovely writing style with delightful turns of phrase:

“he looked at his peers hoping that someone would speak up for him, but they all seemed extremely interested in anything else in the room; a lizard scurrying across the floor, a fly buzzing lazily in the room, anything but Soji.”

“The boy took his seat at one side of the fire, his men arrayed about him like the spikes on a porcupine’s back, all bristling with spears.”

When Toju arrives at the lands of the Hausa, the northern horse lords, we are treated to some beautiful descriptions of the palace and the local architecture and the impressive engineering feats of this people. The worldbuilding in this novel is extremely well done and makes for an easy to imagine landscape and immersive experience.

The pace of this novel flows fairly steadily with increases during the fight sequences. I found it difficult to put down and really enjoyed all the lore and back stories that added colour to the misery and determination of the battle scenes. I would recommend it to anyone intrigued by African lore and culture, and the ever present long-feared hint of black magic in the background:

“Others suggested that if you took a cane to a large banana tree in the dead of night during a full moon, witches would spew from the tree and howl into the night skies like birds released from a cage, taking your sight along with them, and henceforth you would live a life of sickness and suffering.”

I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well-written story about the conflict of good vs evil.

Desc 1

King Jide Adelani has ruled the lands of the Yoruba in West Africa for many peaceful years, but now his kingdom is in turmoil and the cold grasp of death’s embrace is closing in around everything he holds dear.

Jide spent years garnering the respect and loyalty of the tribes in the hopes of uniting them into one cohesive empire when his half-brother, Prince Olise, returns from banishment to claim the throne as his own.

The offspring of a union between the late King Adeosi and the evil enchantress Ekaete, the bitter Olise has devoted the last decade to one purpose; to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. If he fails, he risks his name being erased from the history of the tribes.

With the support of his mother, a powerful witch whose name is whispered in fear across the lands of the tribes, the outcast Olise now seems unstoppable in achieving his goal.

Facing overwhelming military might and dark forces that he cannot comprehend, Jide must either choose to ignore the warnings of the gods, and seek help from those who also practice dark arts; or risk losing his kingdom.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview of #YoungAdult Cultural Fiction LONELY CASTLE IN THE MIRROR by Mizuki Tsujimura

Lonely Castle in the MirrorLonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

3.5 stars

Lonely Castle In The Mirror is a young adult cultural fantasy. I read a version translated from the original Japanese. The story opens with our introduction to high school student Kokoro who has been bullied at school and now refuses to attend. She spends her days at home alone while her parents work. One day her mirror glows and she is transported to a magical castle. There are other children there, and they are given a task to carry out over several months by a mysterious wolf-girl.

With fairytale themes as well as more serious ones like abuse and mental health issues, the children work together to solve the layered mysteries of this story. I thought that the final reveal was very well thought out.

I liked the opening chapters and was quite intrigued with how the story might evolve, but I did struggle to keep reading through the middle sections. I found the narrative style hard to engage with and would say that this probably reflected the cultural differences between Japanese fiction and Western styles. This is a long book; while the ages of the characters suits young adult fiction, the length of the book is more suited to adult or older teenage readers. I’m a little stuck as to whom I can recommend this too. Perhaps the appeal of the book is that it may be enjoyed by a good cross-section of readers.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Seven students are avoiding going to school, hiding in their darkened bedrooms, unable to face their family and friends, until the moment they discover a portal into another world that offers temporary escape from their stressful lives. Passing through a glowing mirror, they gather in a magnifcent castle which becomes their playground and refuge during school hours. The students are tasked with locating a key, hidden somewhere in the castle, that will allow whoever finds it to be granted one wish. At this moment, the castle will vanish, along with all memories they may have of their adventure. If they fail to leave the castle by 5 pm every afternoon, they will be eaten by the keeper of the castle, an easily provoked and shrill creature named the Wolf Queen.

Delving into their emotional lives with sympathy and a generous warmth, Lonely Castle in the Mirror shows the unexpected rewards of reaching out to others. Exploring vivid human stories with a twisty and puzzle-like plot, this heart-warming novel is full of joy and hope for anyone touched by sadness and vulnerability.

AmazonUK due to be published April 22nd

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #shortstories Donkey Boy & Other Stories by @marysmithwriter

Today’s team review is from Judith B, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith

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This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Book description

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

About the author

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Mary Smith

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