Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/
Sue has been reading In the Shadow of Ruin by Tony Debajo
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.
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.