Power and the Gods: A Review of Yusuf Zay’s Orisabumi: The Gods Gave Me
In recent times there has been a spirited rise in genre fiction in Africa. Many young writers today are telling fantasy and science fiction stories. This is clearly in agreement with the socio-cultural heritage of Africa in which there is a veritable blur between reality and fantasy. Tremendous progress has been seen recently in this direction, especially when one considers Tomi Adeyemi’s bestselling Children of Blood and Bone, the spirited novels of Lauren Beukes, the incomparable magic of Nnedi Okoroafor-Mbachu’s works, among others. Thus Yusuf Zay’s Orisabunmi:The gods Gave Me is a decent addition in this fledgling tradition.
Zay’s novel, which is the first in the Made of Magic trilogy, is essentially an epic fantasy dealing with the ancient struggle between gods and men. Amidst all the magic, suspense and lexical lergedemains, the central premise that emerges is the struggle between life and death.
The story begins with a ferocious battle between the witch, Abike and a domineering pantheon of gods hellbent on controlling the earth. They had closed down the Third Mainland Bridge in preparation for an old dangerous rite to summon and honor the old gods. Only witches and other powerful personalities are aware of this. This horrific and foreboding start set the pace for the suspense in the book.
The significance of the old rite is that the seal between the abode of gods and that of men are broken. Like in the bible, gods take on human forms and roam the earth seeking to exterminate the remnants of the offsprings of witches, who have been the product of coitus between gods and men in the old times.
Thus the major plot of the story revolves around Abike’s twins who, while trying to lead ordinary everyday lives, must also confront the demons of the magical heritage bestowed on them by their mother as well as fight the ancient subliminal threat of transmorgrified gods seeking to erase all evidence of their existence from the face of the earth.
I must admit that when I picked up this book I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. But overtime, I became sufficiently impressed by author knowledge of his craft. He is in firm grip of his reader at every turn, sustaining his interest with scenic gems such as when Bunmi used her magic and it afftected her lawyer sister who is in a courtroom, shattering glasses, almost like something out of The Matrix. At one point their father, Bode Dabiri, tells the twins (Modupe and Bunmi) in relation to the danger of the orisha chasing them: “Your bond girls. Your psychic bond is strong and growing stronger by the day. They couldn’t have missed it. So they reasoned that if it was that strong, and they killed one of you, the other would be weakened greatly or die.”
Another example is the fight between the sisters and two god-men in a bathroom. The fight was fought by means magical telepathy. Such scenes make the novel extremely suspenseful and show the expertise of the writer.
There are references to the Salem witch trials of Puritan America, to Nsibidi, the ancient Igbo script, to gods of the Yoruba pantheon and all the orisha. All these, coupled with the good dialogue, combine to make the book an exciting page-turner. Orisabumi is a fine example of escapist literature. I heartily recommend this book to all lovers of fantasy and good reads.
Orisabunmi can be purchased at any of the following outlets:
About the Author
Chimezie Chika’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies both online and in print including Aerodrome, Brittle Paper, Praxis Magazine, Selfies and Signatures, The Kalahari Review, The Question Marker and many others. He freelances on all types of writing projects. He can be reached at email@example.com