SPFBO 7 REVIEW: The Gatekeeper’s Staff by Antoine Bandele

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More SPFBO book adventures!

TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now.

Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations of TJ’s world.

Desperate to pick up where his sister left off and uncover the secrets behind her questionable death, TJ commits himself to unlocking the magical heritage that has always eluded him. So he enrolls in Camp Olosa—a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans.

But little does he know, TJ is destined to cross paths with powerful spirits of old thought lost to time: the orishas.

Tomori Jomiloju (or, just TJ) Young is a 14 year old boy who lives in Los Angeles. He is part of a secret community of diviners. Though he never manifested any magical abilities himself, his mother, older sister, and younger brother all have various magical powers. His older sister Ifedayo mysteriously dies in Nigeria, leading to all sorts of paranormal shenanigans, and TJ finds himself not only suddenly having magic, but having to learn to use it as well. He enrolls in a magical camp in New Orleans. From there, the Orisha adventures never stop.

This book has a helpful pronunciation guide at the beginning of it, as it does contain Yoruba phrases, along with a host of West African and French names. I listened to the audiobook, and so I didn’t need help with pronunciation, but if I had read the print version, I know that it would have been a wonderful asset to have.

This book could be enjoyed by anyone from middle-grade onward. It takes the magical school trope and made it seem unique by combining it with mythology from the Yoruba religion. The Orishas are interesting mythological figures to read about, and I think they lend themselves well to a world of magical shenanigans. The book was quite long, by middle-grade book standards, but I never found myself bored with the story, and it was always easy to get back into it.

I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator, Nekia Renee, did a fantastic job, or at least, she did to my ears. There are not only Yoruba phrases in this one, but there are varying levels of accents that she performed very well, while telling TJ’s story in a way that I thought was really enthralling. I turned this one on and just listened for hours at a time, which is always a good thing. The audiobook also had all kinds of samples and music and effects that went a long way to turning it from just a story into a performance, without making it a dramatization. It was very well done, and I would recommend the audiobook to anyone who is into audiobooks.

If you’re into YA magical shenanigans, this book is definitely for you. I enjoyed my time with it, quite a lot. I had 7.75/10 stars of fun with The Gatekeeper’s Staff, and I recommend it to anyone interested in magical academy stories, or West African mythology.