Review posted January 17, 2024.
Balzer + Bray, 2023. 338 pages.
Review written October 30, 2023, from a library book.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Children's Speculative Fiction
This debut middle grade fantasy novel is a sweet-hearted story of a girl named Adia who knows she has special powers, but needs to learn that doesn’t mark her as cursed.
The book is set in an alternate version of Africa. Adia is an orphan and lives in the Swamplands with her aunt and uncle, who seem to hate her. White missionaries came to their land years ago and have suppressed the old ways and inflicted their own control. All adults take Drops before church services, and they’re oddly compliant.
But Adia has made plans behind her aunt and uncle’s backs to spend her Year of Practicality working in the kitchen at the Academy of Shamans. She has a narrow escape before she leaves, and is startled when an earthquake happens when she gets angry.
Once at the Academy, she finds white-skinned students pretending to do spiritual work, but even Adia can sense more than they can.
Told with humor and heart, Adia witnesses one of the Alusi come to earth and learns that the demon that destroyed their land many years ago is now inhabiting the body of the child emperor – and coming to the Academy. One thing leads to another, and we’ve got a kid who’s been told she’s an evil influence discovering her power and using it to fight those who are actually evil.
The result is a delightful romp and an impressive debut. Adia’s the kind of person I enjoyed spending time with, and I look forward to reading more of her adventures as she learns more about her power.