The Lies of Ajungo - Review
*I received the physical copy for the B2 Weird Bookclub tour via Tordotcom. All reviews are my own.*
Something about the title, The Lies of Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi, made me gravitate towards requesting this book. I got pure In the Shadow of Ruin vibes, and that was such a good book; I wanted to get the same satisfaction with this novella. It's an unfair comparison, but this little package was fire and is worth all the praise I'm about to give it.
"They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies?
In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city. Thus begins Tutu’s quest for the salvation of his mother, his city, and himself.
The Lies of the Ajungo opens the curtains on a tremendous world, and begins the epic fable of the Forever Desert. "
The Lies of Ajungo occur in the fictional Forever Desert, an unforgiving region lacking essential resources like water. To save his mother, prevent more children from getting their tongues cut out in exchange for a drop of water, and become a hero to a city on the brink of extinction, thirteen-year-old Tutu will journey the sands to bring honor and salvation to his village.
Why is something drastic like mutilation in a perilous situation always drawing me into a story? I really need to check on that. I like where this is heading for the first book in the Forever Desert trilogy. TLOA is not your average storytelling; it's an experience. Imagine the narrator from 300 detailing the thoughts of a boy traveling alone in the desert to find water. You won't find your typical fantasy perks, such as dragons, wizards, fairies, etc. But we do have some magical foresight abilities.
Because this is a short story, I have my questions. My biggest one is why? I won't give out any spoilers, but what was the reason and purpose behind the treacherous Ajungo Empire? Is it to show that they can? Was there a greater play? Was the goal to divide and conquer? Ahh, the beauty of reading a novella.
Overall, I rated this book 4-stars. I can totally see this being a long, drawn-out epic fantasy. But for now, I'm happy that this book is less than 100 pages. It captured the message in the book without all the fluff. I wish we could see more of the characters and their backgrounds. Their stories would've been a chef's kiss towards the book's might. That could be something we'll see in the next part of the series, The Truth of Aleke, coming out in Winter '24.
The Lies of Ajungo is available now!