There is no doubt a lack of representation when it comes to outstanding work in many book genres. Science fiction and horror are the two of the hardest genres to find an abundance of black work. Selected from the shelves of Target, I listened to the audiobook on the Libby App.
In the Pan-African world of Eshoza, in the broken city of Lkossa, Koffi lives as an indentured servant for the city’s Night Zoo. On the other side of the social scale is Ekon, a studious young man, who is on the verge of becoming a Son of Six, an elite band of warriors. When these two first meet, just for a brief moment, it alters both their destinies.
Now the two are off on a mission into the Great Jungle, a forbidden area, that no man had ever returned from, to catch the Shetani, a monster responsible for multiple slayings, including Ekon’s father.
The Great Jungle hides more than just mystical monsters, it also holds secrets, long buried.
As I mention before it takes a great talent to build a new world that makes the reader want to live there. I’ve never read a book that was a completely black fictional world. Anaya Grey produced a spectacular novel that did exactly that. Let’s get into it.
Anaya Grey said that when she returned from a visit to Ghana, she knew she wanted to write a story in which Black people had the opportunity to be both magical and nuanced. The world nuanced means having subtle and often appealing complex qualities, aspects, or distinctions.
Ekon. A young man on the verge of becoming a man. He wants to be a warrior, like his older brother, like his father, but he loves to read and study. The most unique thing about Ekon is that he suffers from anxiety, expressed in constant counting and tapping of his fingers. Yes, a studious warrior who suffers from anxiety. We watch him struggle with new and complex emotions as he bonds with Koffi and comes to understand his place in elite society. We watch him take the lessons he’s learned as a boy and apply them. He has the knowledge and skill to be a great warrior, not because he’s the strongest, but because he studies how to be. Then there is Koffi. A young woman who known nothing but life in servitude. She’s impulsive, often acting before thinking. We get up close view as Koffi examines her relationship with her mother and her true feelings for her father. The story of a young woman, who doesn’t truly understand her real potential, her real worth.
The adventure into the Great Jungle, Gray made me feel like I’d stepped into an African tale, like Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters or Anansi the Spider. Death and lessons are possible at every turn. There was no wasted space in this book. No page did not add to the story. There wasn’t even a moment to catch your breath.
Gray created a world that has so many possibilities, I see many stories coming out of the world of Eshoza. A world filled with nuanced and magical black boys and girls going on great adventures. I can not wait to finish part 2 Beast of Ruin.
It’s a different experience when you listen to the audio version of a book. A narrator can make or break the story regardless of how great the story is. But when the narrators are perfectly selected it transforms the story. When I tell you that Keylor Leigh as Koffi, Tovah Ott as Adiah, and Ronald Peet as Ekon were some of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever listened to. They were Koffi, Adiah, and Ekon.