This starts with a woman who is attending a big wedding. She is on the younger side and came with her friend, and she’s met a man who has sparked her interest. He’s charming, smart, kind, and is showing interest in her as well. Her friend isn’t diggin’ it though, and warns her against leaving the party with this strange man she doesn’t know. Her friend had the right idea, the young woman is murdered, and pretty horrifically at that. The man turns out to be a Kishi – a demon. Kishi can appear to be human, but they transform into a hyena and feast on humans. They have the ability to lull their prey into a false sense of security through empathic powers making them adept at taking people by surprise. They are silent, leaving no footprints, and making no noise … they can even run on top of the water.
A man named Amana has traveled a long way after a tough life searching for a legendary warrior. He wants to apprentice under Uzomo and came all the way out to this small village trying to track him down and ends up attending the same wedding where the young woman is killed. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was first accused of murdering the young woman, but the spirits cleared his name (shamans can summon spirits). After that, he helps the villagers try and track down these Kishi after it becomes apparent there’s more than one, and it’s urgent because the Kishi are stealing young women off of farms in the surrounding area and also captured the bride to be.
I liked Amana, he had a good heart, he has a tragic backstory that makes you hope he will have success in finding his inner peace. He lost his family to a fire and constantly is plagued by nightmares reliving those moments over and over again. He thought that joining up with some monks would help with that, but they rejected him… probably because he still has a lot of anger and bitterness. There’s a cute romance going on between Amana and another warrior, Niya. (Spelling uncertain, I audiobooked) She is the captain of the guard for the visiting nation who came there for the wedding with the bride. They have a slower beginning which is almost a requirement for me to enjoy a romance. A hot and heavy whirlwind romance or love at first sight stories annoy me.
There were some parts of this that just didn’t work for me, but they were mostly subjective things. I kind of giggle to myself when men in books (or real life) are trying to be seductive, especially if it’s through dance. I just don’t find men dancing all that alluring, so reading about a woman being attracted to gyrating hips just… eh. However, I seem to be the only person who just does not understand dancing. It seems to be a big part of humanity that everyone else gets but me, so take that with a grain of salt – gyrating hips sure worked for Elvis. The other thing is the silly way a woman’s “breasts throbbed” when she was getting hot and heavy with a demon. Boobs don’t throb like that, y’all.
The magic in this was pretty neat, and there were all different types of magic that kept things interesting. There were shamans that worked to the sound of drums to call out to the spirits. There are various types of shapeshifters with some people having the ability to turn into lions, or leopards, or hyenas. There are people who have “Sight” and can predict what’s going to happen just a few seconds before it does – which is very useful in fights. There are people who can wield elemental magic and bring rocks and dust up from the ground during a fight. This felt very high fantasy and yet also grounded here on Earth. To me, everything felt thought out and seamless which is a nice way to present a book. There was basically no info-dumping, the world was built organically and through context rather than spelling it all out. Women’s roles in this world varied on where they are from. It’s not uncommon to see women archers, but Niya was captain of the guard, and that ruffled some feathers in the village. A man tried making fun of her for it, poking at her appearance and making lude comments… and then she knocked him in the face with her bow. Sexism in books is at its worst when it’s unclear if the author intentionally put it in there or not. If you’re doing John Travolta hands trying to figure out what the intentions were, things have gone awry
When it’s clear the character who’s sexist is a douche-bag it makes it much less grating. Dude was an ass, so he got knocked in the face for it. Fair enough. There were other times that things seemed a tad unintentional, however. Specifically with reducing women to their appearance more than a few times.
All in all, this was a solid read that I enjoyed a lot. I would highly recommend it if any of this sounded interesting to you. There’s also an audiobook that I thought was well-performed, edited, and the sound quality was great.
TLDR: African based fantasy with demons, elemental magic, shapeshifters, and more. Women are being captured by demons and MC has to try and stop it.
- Plot: 11/15
- Character: 12/15
- World-Building: 13.5/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 82.5/100 or 4/5 stars on GR