Release Date: October 31, 2017
Received From: NetGalley
In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.
Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.
When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.
A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.
GENDER: presumed cisgender
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual
TROPES: the chosen one, class disparity
TAGS: fantasy, young adult, black characters, POC characters, black authors, POC authors, poverty rep, Islam inspired religion, ownvoices
WARNINGS: slavery / servitude, violence, explicit violence, mass death, racism, corrupt government, ableism, classism, drug usage, drug addiction
I can now add Beasts Made of Night to my list of favorite books, and a sequel to my most anticipated!
This book absolutely excels at worldbuilding. The set-up of the Forum and the dahias where the citizens and aki (sin-eaters) live, as well as the palace grounds, are so clearly and beautifully described that it’s incredibly easy to picture the layout of the walled city of Kos. The culture of the Forum, especially that of the markets, is incredibly complex and diverse. Within this area of the city, we’re introduced to the common citizens and the aki, who are all just trying to make a living and survive in the circumstances they were born to. The poverty, prejudices, determination, love, and all other aspects of the emotional spectrum are impossible to ignore, as Onyebuchi does a phenomenal job of creating people that you can relate to, people you want to protect and love, people you so easily hate. The religion practiced by those in the Forum was also vividly descriptive, with multiple scenes of the daily prayers, and you are able to feel the people’s dedication and hope that their lives will improve as long as they have faith.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel, for me, was the practice around Eating sins. It was horrifying to watch these children be forced to fight the sin-beasts, the monsters made of shadow that are formed once the sin is pulled from a person, and then ingest those very monsters once they’ve defeated them. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch them have to deal with the guilt of another person circling inside their heads while they’re plainly marked for all to see, mocked and mistreated for these lives that they did not, and never would, choose.
The novel is told entirely in first person, which has it’s ups and downs. I enjoy it for the fact that the narrator is more often than not an unreliable narrator because there’s, usually, no possible way for them to know everything that’s going on. This can keep things interesting, and certainly with this book it did–it added so much to the intrigue and mystery of what was actually going on in Kos. The downfall is that it can get a bit confusing at time, as you’re getting all the information at the same time as Taj, but I didn’t feel that was unduly complicated in this instance. It hinders the development of most of the secondary characters, to a certain degrees, but all of them are still wonderfully dynamic, and you can’t help but rooting for them or feeling their betrayals as deeply as Taj.
Where the overall writing is concerned, there were some times where the transitions were rather abrupt and the timeline hops around a little bit. There were some questions that I would’ve liked to have answered–why did it take so long for Taj’s dragon sin-mark to appear when the rest seemed to develop right away? Arzu says she was “unsexed” as part of her punishment and service to the Princess, but it’s never clear what exactly that means?–but these open-ended questions didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story.
With lush worldbuilding and genuine characters, Tochi Onyebuchi presents to us a glorious fantasy novel that all should read, and I only hope it achieves all the praise and alcolades it deserves.
Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Beasts Made of Night is his debut.