Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (review)
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Reviewed by
Onyebuchi, Tochi Beasts Made of Night. Razorbill, 2017 [304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-448-49390-9 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-448-49392-3 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys M Gr. 7-10

Taj is a gifted aki—a person who can to eat the sins the Mages call forth from whoever is able to pay them to restore their purity and sometimes their health. The sins emerge as dangerous shadow animals that must be fought and killed before they can be ingested; the painful process results in the appearance of a tattoo of the beast on the aki’s skin. While one might think that the aki would be revered for this service, they are instead reviled and underpaid, separated from their families, operating at the behest of the corrupt Mages, and all too often dying young at the talons or teeth of a particularly dangerous sin beast. Taj’s skill catches the eye of the royal family; they bring him to the palace as their personal sin-eater, but things get complicated when he is required to train young aki and gets drawn into a rebellion. The premise here is promising, as is the integration of Nigerian contexts, including references to Muslim-like prayer rituals, regional variations of pepper soup, and descriptions of natural hair and brown skin. Unfortunately, the narration is all premise and context with very little plot and even less fully realized characterization. Taj spends most of his narrative time wandering the city, interacting with characters readers haven’t been fully introduced to, and falling for various young women. In fact, the gaps and jumps make readers think they’ve missed something, when in fact the information needed for understanding wasn’t there to miss. A plot does make an appearance at last, resulting in a cliffhanger that presages a sequel, but with so little to invest in, it will be a rare reader who seeks it out. [End Page 127]

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