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Masquerade - Review

*I received an audio copy from Macmillan Audio via NetGalley. All reviews are my own.*

Ahhh, it feels good to be writing reviews again! I had to take a little break from writing for those who didn't know because my old laptop finally started showing her age. After a quick upgrade, I can finally type my E's without mashing my fingers! See look: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I feel like Jacques.

"Òdòdó’s hometown of Timbuktu has been conquered by the the warrior king of Yorùbáland. Already shunned as social pariahs, living conditions for Òdòdó and the other women in her blacksmith guild grow even worse under Yorùbá rule.
Then Òdòdó is abducted. She is whisked across the Sahara to the capital city of Ṣàngótẹ̀, where she is shocked to discover that her kidnapper is none other than the vagrant who had visited her guild just days prior. But now that he is swathed in riches rather than rags, Òdòdó realizes he is not a vagrant at all; he is the warrior king, and he has chosen her to be his wife.
In a sudden change of fortune, Òdòdó soars to the very heights of society. But after a lifetime of subjugation, the power that saturates this world of battle and political savvy becomes too enticing to resist. As tensions with rival states grow, revealing elaborate schemes and enemies hidden in plain sight, Òdòdó must defy the cruel king she has been forced to wed by re-forging the shaky loyalties of the court in her favor, or risk losing everything—including her life.
Loosely based on the myth of Persephone, O.O. Sangoyomi’s Masquerade takes you on a journey of epic power struggles and political intrigue that turn an entire region on its head."


Anyway, I received my latest read from my good friend Stacia, entitled Masquerade by O.O. Sangoyomi. The title boasts a loose version of Hades and Persephone's myth set in 15th century West Africa; a girl is stolen from her home, only to find out the Warrior King is her captor, and she is to be his bride. Although she finds fortune in this brazen move, she quickly realizes how chained she is to the unfortunates of being a woman under a man's power. While the book was fantastic, the official synopsis only partially sold what I sought.


Before getting into it, I have to discuss the reading formats. I enjoyed checking this title via audio with Ariel Blake as the narrator. Blake embodied 13 hours of Òdòdó and her story, and I'd like to hear more from her in the future. I think she fits the main character's profile perfectly, as do the other characters who came into play.


Initially, this book is pitched as an Adult Mythological retelling with some Fantasy, and I can tell you that this is absent in the story. Let's talk about the age level first. Even though this book is pitched as an Adult, it read very much YA. I found the main character, Òdòdó, to be very naïve up until she faced her tragedy. And even then, it still took her a while to get the hang of wearing her big girl panties. It was almost as if her head was always in the clouds, and because of that, she was treated like a pet. I credit Sangoyomi for Òdòdó's character development (she eventually finds her voice), but I wish there were an even mixture of her shedding her girlhood to womanhood.


One of my major disappointments was the need for more fantasy elements. If you're expecting something magical, I'm sorry, but it isn't here. I had in mind something like Tony Debajo's In the Shadow of Ruin or Suyi Davies Okungbowa's Son of Storm; a little bit of some God sightings or an evil witch doctor dredging from the shadows, but we get none of that in this title. 


Not everything about the book is negative. The storytelling by Sangoyomi and Blake was engaging, keeping me hooked throughout Òdòdó's journey. I was genuinely interested in how it was all going to turn out. Despite a few inconsistencies and lacking detailed events, it was a captivating story.  And that ending was something to applaud!


Overall, I rated this book 3-stars. It was a good book but different from what was pitched. I was expecting an Adult Fantasy book and got Young Adult Historical Fiction. I was looking forward to an African version of a Persephone/Hades retelling (that's what sold me), but I didn't see anything that correlated to that story. That may be a me thing. If you pick up this title (I reiterate it is a good book!), go in, knowing that the synopsis doesn't describe the grit of the book.

Masquerade debuts July 2, 2024

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