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This book captivated me from the first chapter. Opening into mystery and suspense is a gripping way to introduce a story, and hooks me in every time. Quickly introduced to colorful characters and a diverse culture from my own, my imagination had plenty to feast on.
Stories about war, especially dark fantasies, are a guilty pleasure of mine. When they are well written, with a pace that flows like butter, I can't get enough. The Ivory Staff definitely qualifies on all accounts, and quickly became a favorite read for 2017. I immediately wanted to know more about the mysterious war, the missing parents, the orphaned boy, and the strong, passionate girl who didn't tolerate being pitied. As the story progressed, I was pulled further into this fantasy, caught up in the dark politics, corruption, and enormous chances taken in love.
Samiyah and Chad's story is mainly told after the fact, to the teenager Maliko by his uncle Pan (the king), and his chief male servant and friend, Saab. Experiencing the stories told to Maliko as he hears them for the first time was a creative way to explain the past, and answer the questions both Maliko and the reader itch to have answered. Filled with clashes of classes, a lottery of a ball for Chad to pick a bride, and rebellious passion, the overall story is captivating. Even though the place is made up, it's easy to imagine it exists, as it pulls you into it's fantasy.
While I'm sure the written version is very good, I had the pleasure of experiencing the audiobook. The narrator did a wonderful job with the characters, and seemed to fit the story very well. His voice pulled me into Mutarobi, giving the story wonderful layers of depth. Considering the story is nearly thirteen hours, I'd say he is definitely a talented narrator, as every minute was captivating.
This is definitely a book to add to your reading list, written or audiobook format. I'm sure it won't disappoint. I would definitely look out for more works by this author, and am grateful to have had the opportunity to escape into this story for a few days.
*I was given a complimentary audiobook edition of this book, from the author, to listen to in exchange for an honest review.
@Desert Rose Reviews
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It took me a bit to get into this story, partly due to the narration (discussed below). Everything starts off so full of sunshine, kids laughing, family camaraderie, etc. and I was expecting a dark fantasy novel. Now, the story does take a walk on the darkside for much of the book but it takes a little while to get there. Maliko is on the cusp of manhood and has many questions about his parentage. His Uncle Pan and a chief leader, Saab, take us back a generation as they relate the tale of Maliko’s mom, Samiya (AKA Siya).
The world building was the most interesting part of this book. This is a fantasy of sorts that takes place on a mythical island Mutarobi off the coast of Africa set in our modern world. So there’s a distant United States and bill folds and flush toilets and such. There’s not really any magic, just these characters in Mutarobi trying to make the best of a bad situation. The land is in balance at the beginning of the tale but then the bulk of the story happens in this lengthy flashback. The Madanis used to be subjugated by the ruling class, the Kasimo. The tale of Samiya, a Madani, shows us how terrible the subjugation is and how corrupt most of those in power are.
I had difficulty getting attached to any of the characters. Perhaps Maliko is my favorite but he has only a small role at the beginning and the end. I do enjoy flawed characters but I had trouble discerning the nature of each one. For instance, there’s a main character who professes a great love for Samiya and later in thestory he reflects on the simpler and innocent times like the big celebration ball where he met her and all he wanted to do was violate her. Yep. Violate, as in rape. The characters use those two terms interchangeably. So I had trouble rooting for this ‘hero’ especially as he didn’t ever learn that rape is essentially a bad thing.
Samiya goes to this grand ball, feeling it a great privilege to have been invited since she is of the Madani tribe. Yet she goes there full well knowing she may be violated by a ruling Kasimo, and she counts this as a blessing and a chance to increase her value. Hmmm…. yeah. I needed a bit more to make that work for me. So I didn’t really see Samiya as a hero either though later she does become a tragic character.
All the view points are from the male characters and I felt this left an imbalance. Samiya comes off as a bit of a doe-eyed bimbo at the beginning of her tale. Her favorite things to do are please other people and laugh. To me, that sounds like something a 6 year old would say at a beauty pageant. Later she gets a little depth as we see how motherhood affects her, but even then her sensuality is the most important characteristic to the story. We are told how she has these other great abilities, like being able to do intricate math in her head. Yet we never see it. She wasn’t a well rounded character and all the other female characters have very small roles. We never get to ride around in their heads and are left to infer their inner feelings and thoughts by what they say and do. Meanwhile, we get to hang out in the guys’s heads and hear all about their appreciation of the female form, their loves and lusts, and concerns over STDs.
About half-way through the story, the pace finally picks up and big stuff starts happening. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book quite a bit more than the first half. The characters are reaping the fruits of their deeds and not all are pleased! There’s some drama and murder and possible adultery and big upheavals. The ending was satisfying, explaining to Maliko how the Mutarobi he knows and loves came to be. All together, I give this 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: John Hawks has a very pleasant voice and an accent fitting for this story. However, there were so many mispronounced words that I often lost track of the story as I puzzled out what was meant. For instance, the word curtsy is pronounced as kurdside, writhed is pronounced as wreathed, glowered is pronounced as glow red, etc. Also, there wasn’t much distinction in character voices and that made it difficult to keep track of who was doing and saying what. His female voices lacked femininity. Also, there were several sentences repeated in the recording. Sometimes the recording sounded like it was done in a cavern. On the other hand, his pacing was good. 2.5/3 stars for the narration.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by M. Lachi. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.