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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Gore
Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Taj is an aki, a sin-eater. After Mages pull the sins out of people, he and his fellow aki fight those sins and, if they win, consume them, leaving only the tell-tale tattoos on their skin, the signs that mark them as outcasts. But when the supposedly pure King has Taj eat one of his sins, Taj is caught in a battle between the all-powerful members of the royal family over the true role of the aki and their powers. Onyebuchi crafts a compelling tale for his first novel, seamlessly blending fantasy, religion, political intrigue, and a touch of steampunk into a twisting tale of magic. Taj, who narrates the tale in present tense, is a great stand-in for teen readers, equal parts afraid, determined, cocky, smart, and clueless. As he moves out of the slums he knows and into a world of wealth and power, readers will discover whom he can trust and what the other characters truly want right along with him. Hand this intriguing fantasy to fans of Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch (2011).
Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
Taj, the black teenage narrator of Onyebuchi’s debut, is an aki, or sin-eater—meaning that he literally consumes the exorcised transgressions of others, usually in the forms of inky-colored animal-shaped phantasms called inisisas that reappear as black tattoos on the akis’ “red skin, brown skin.” This really isn’t his most remarkable trait, however, even as he ingests greater and greater sins of the Kaya, the brown-skinned royal family ruling the land of Kos. What makes Taj extraordinary is the tensions he holds: his blasé awareness of his exalted status as the best aki, even as the townspeople both shun yet exploit him and his chosen family of sin-eaters; his adolescent swagger coupled with the big-brotherly protectiveness he has for the crew of akis and, as the story proceeds, his increasing responsibility to train them; his natural skepticism of the theology that guides Kos even as he performs the very act that allows the theology—and Kos itself—to exist. He must navigate these in the midst of a political plot, a burgeoning star-crossed love, and forgiveness for the sins he does not commit. “Epic” is an overused term to describe how magnificent someone or something is. Author Onyebuchi’s novel creates his in the good old-fashioned way: the slow, loving construction of the mundane and the miraculous, building a world that is both completely new and instantly recognizable. This tale moves beyond the boom-bang, boring theology of so many fantasies—and, in the process, creates, almost griotlike, a paean to an emerging black legend. (Fantasy. 14-adult)
About the Author
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.
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