Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Masquerade by O.O. Sangoyomi

Title: Masquerade
Series: n/a
Author: O.O. Sangoyomi
Source/Format: Bookish First/Publisher; Paperback ARC
More Details: Loose Retelling; Historical Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Forge Books; July 2, 2024

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Set in a wonderfully reimagined 15th century West Africa, Masquerade is a dazzling, lyrical tale exploring the true cost of one woman’s fight for freedom and self-discovery, and the lengths she’ll go to secure her future.

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.

I originally read an excerpt of this book on Bookish First. I was sold on the concept laid out in the synopsis as well as intrigued by it being a loose retelling of the myth of Persephone, but set in a fictional version of fifteenth century West Africa. Having read the whole story, I have a new favorite book. And between Katherine Arden’s The Warm Hands of Ghosts, Leigh Bardugo’s The Familiar, and now O.O. Sangoyomi’s Masquerade, historical fiction is having quite a year.

Òdòdó, a blacksmith from Timbuktu—which carried its own connotations (and stigma) in the context of the story—finds herself whisked away by the king of Yorùbáland after an act of naïve kindness, to be his bride. It's in the early beginnings of Masquerade where some of the strongest aspects related to the myth could be found. It wasn’t on the nose either, and instead Masquerade was sprinkled with subtle nods.

The story was wonderfully detailed and steeped in the rich history, traditions, and folklore of its setting. It also meant superstition and often strict societal norms, and one of the most interesting parts of the book was seeing how Òdòdó would learn to navigate the sudden change in her environment, between Timbuktu and Sàngótè.

The king’s characterization was done so well. He was portrayed as a capable leader as well as the kind of person who has never been told no. I was expecting it, since even the synopsis makes mention of his cruelty. And he was ambitious and entitled, even to have Òdòdó become his wife. I could almost say he was arrogant in that regard, and he wasn’t careful with how he spoke to or treated—or even acknowledged the ambition and the suffering—of his supposed soon-to-be wife.

Being at the whim of a fickle king who Òdòdó’s power—and the favor bestowed to her by his people—depended on, was a heavy a burden. There was a power imbalance, especially between the king and his bride, which wasn’t helped by the superstition (and suspicion) surrounding the blacksmith guilds and the woman who worked there.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Òdòdó’s journey. It was a costly one in a politically tense environment, but her quest was one of self-discovery, power, and influence. She wanted more and more, which was often the crux driving the story forward: escape from the life as a blacksmith, her desire for power and status, and the lengths she was willing to go to not only obtain it but to keep it as well. It was perilous and dark, and no one was left unscathed by the end.
Masquerade had a lot going for it. As a loose retelling, it worked. And as historical fiction, it had everything I was looking for. If you like richly detailed world building and political intrigue, then I highly recommend Masquerade.

About the author....
O.O. Sangoyomi is a Nigerian American author with a penchant for African mythology and history. During a childhood of constantly moving around, she found an anchored home in the fictional worlds of books. She is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she studied literature. Her debut novel, Masquerade, will be published by Macmillan/Forge in July 2024.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Forge Books) via Bookish First in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated and always welcome. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...