Photo by Martino Pietropoli on Unsplash
In the walled city of Kos mages are able to bring life to the guilt born from sin. These beasts are called the inisia. Sin-eaters are called aki, but eating comes with a cost. After each inisia, the aki are branded with a tattoo of the beast. Most fade away with time, but not for Taj. Taj makes a living working for corrupt mages and while the work is taxing, Taj does it for the good of his family. When he does a sin eating for a member of Kos’ royal family, he is thrown into a movement against a darker force working within the mages.
Beasts Made of Night is the type of novel I’ve been wanting. A fantasy that is fantastically, refreshingly not white. I love fantasy but I also love all different kinds of fantasy and this novel immediately enraptured me with the unapologetic and robust use of Nigerian influence. There are a lot of things that I didn’t fully understand right off the bat, but that comes with any fantasy novel worth talking about, doesn’t it?
Taj was an easily likable character. He was a good person. He didn’t like the kind of discrimination that the aki had to go through and holds a strong grudge against the mages who use the aki like indentured servants. However, the money he gets from this work goes back to his family and he still cares for the rest of the aki he works with. So Taj was a character that we can root for, he’s someone that’s good and we want him to succeed.
Taj was an incredibly static character. He didn’t have a lot of things that challenged him or his morality at all. I didn’t see him debate whether or not to do the right thing nor did I ever see his views generally challenged. This, overall, made for a pretty static and arguably boring novel. Much of this stems from the fact that there isn’t a very strong motive or objective to the plot. There are hints of a looming threat or some instances that allude to a conspiracy, but I personally felt like it took too long for any of this to come into fruition. Red herrings were also imminent. Too many times were there things that I felt like could have led to something, but didn’t.
There is also a romance that can be argued as insta-love, but I found it as more of raging hormones and actually found it quite comedic. There’s a different romance later on that I felt like was a bit more developed, but we see so little of that character that I can’t help but think that I’m putting that romance more on the implication of time spent rather than actual narration shown to the reader.
Other than the plot taking to long to move, my biggest critique is the characterization. I felt like this was such an expository novel that we didn’t get to see enough of the side characters. Taj, while he is good, isn’t the best narrator, I feel. His narrations rarely focus on the relationships or the interactions that I hardly feel anything when one goes sour or when one is in danger. I get worried for Taj, sure, but not so much for his other friends. There’s one character, Omar, that does get a bit more development but that’s mostly because he follows Taj around like a puppy. Other than that, many of the side characters have really rough foundations and nothing to really get the readers invested aside from implication–a symptom of the tell not show problem.
I think this novel has amazing potential. The world building is on point and I can believe that this world exists. The characters and the central plot, however, need a lot of work. I’m hoping that maybe the next book in this series is stronger and gives us a lot more to work with, but at the moment I’m not overly impressed with the central plot and I feel like the characters could’ve been in the picture more. If anything, I wished there were more chapters in specific areas and less in others. I still recommend this novel for the ones who want to read a fantasy that is different for once.
Title: Beasts Made of Night
Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
Published: Slated for October 31, 2017 by Razorbill