Review by Booklist Review
All her life, Abeni has been known as the little rain bringer; it is rumored that when she was born, she brought rains that ended a perilous drought. On the day of Abeni's twelfth birthday, she is eager to convince people to drop the "little" from her nickname, wanting to be seen as more than a child. But she doesn't realize that her wish is about to come true, just not in the way she hopes. When Abeni's family and friends are stolen away, she must make an unlikely alliance with spirits to take on a villain who is older than humans themselves. This sweeping epic fantasy takes beloved West African folklore and spins it into a tale of whimsy, horror, and adventure. Nebula-winning Clark, known for his adult works, masterfully builds beautiful, authentic worlds and fills them with characters that are both endearing and flawed. This has the feel of a classic fantasy, something that will be passed down for generations to come.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this enchanting first installment of an epic fantasy series based in West African mythology, a small village's Harvest Celebration ends in disaster after a mysterious force destroys the town and kidnaps all the villagers--except 12-year-old Abeni. She's saved by Asha, an elderly witch who lives in the surrounding Jembe forest and has been warning the villagers of impending doom. Distraught and confused following the traumatic event, Abeni struggles to adjust to living with Asha and Obi, a man made of straw, in a home in the witch's secluded magical garden. Asha is secretive, only revealing that a great war involving spirits and mortals is brewing, that the villagers have likely boarded ghost ships far from the forest, and that Abeni must grow into her magical powers if she hopes to survive the ordeal. As Abeni experiences harrowing trials and tribulations, and recruits new fantastical and human friends, she's forced to reckon with her hidden abilities and her place in her village's shrouded history is this intricately detailed, riotously fun adventure by Clark (A Master of Djinn, for adults) that explores themes of loyalty, friendship, courage, and the power of belief in oneself. Ages 8--12. (July)
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Review by Horn Book Review
On Abeni's twelfth birthday, a witch enters her village to give a grave warning: an evil is coming, and it's too late to run. The adults prepare for an impossible battle as malevolent women and a shadowy goat man, aided by magical black ropes and an enchanted flute, begin their attack. When it's over, Abeni survives -- saved by the witch -- but the village has been destroyed and its residents, both adults and children, have disappeared, "hidden in the darkness." Abeni despairs over the loss of her community, but the witch, Asha, provides some stability until she seemingly disappears. With the aid of two spirits (a timid porcupine and a brusque panther), Abeni sets out to find her friends and family before they are completely consumed by the dark. Clark presents a rich story of love, loss, and friendship steeped in West African lore. Readers will thrill to the fantastic plot points as well as the genuine relationships between magical and mortal characters, and the fast-paced plot will keep them fully immersed in the story from beginning to end. An excellent foundation for a projected new fantasy series. S. R. ToliverSeptember/October 2023 p.71 (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A 12-year-old West African girl attempts to save children who were stolen from her village. Abeni and her best friend, Fomi, plan to enjoy their annual Harvest Festival, but the festivities are interrupted when Asha, the local witch, appears. She reminds everyone that she gave three warnings that they must leave their homes, but they did not obey; she can no longer protect the village from the coming war. After watching over them for generations, Asha is here to collect her payment: a child. To her great shock, Abeni's mother gives her to Asha. And then war does in fact come to their peaceful valley where they lived quietly, surrounded by a forest. Abeni watches in horror as storm women assisted by magical black ropes capture the adults before a mysterious goat man plays a haunting melody on a flute that ensnares the other children. Abeni, trained in self-defense by Auntie Asha, sets out to find the kidnapped children. She crosses paths with porcupine spirit Nyomi and panther spirit Zaneeya who join her as they pursue quests of their own. The magical storytelling and West African spirit elements will keep readers engaged, while authentic relationships between the central characters offer a nice counterbalance for the fantastical plot points, making this work appealing to fantasy and realistic fiction readers alike. An original, enjoyable coming-of-age story with complex fantasy worldbuilding and multifaceted characters. (Fantasy. 9-13) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.