The Black Cabinet by Jill Watts ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Book provided by NetGalley for a fair and honest review

You can watch my reading vlog and review on my YouTube Channel.

4.5/5 stars

I approached Jill Watt’s book with a little trepidation. I was intrigued by the concept and the topic because it’s not something I’ve ever heard of. History is not my profession, and I know there’s always more for me to learn. As the publication data approached I grew wary of reading it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in learning about what was in it; I was just worried about my ability to comprehend what I read. Some of these more academic books can be really difficult to get into and read through. It doesn’t help that I’m a better reader when listening to audiobooks. Lucky for me, May was a tough month, and I was late to reading this. By the time I got to it the book was published. The audiobook was out. So I chose to listen to it. And I’m glad I did because I ended loving the audiobook. What’s more, I also think this would probably make a fantastic book to read physically as well.

The black cabinet first informally started in the age of Theodore Roosevelt, not long after the reconstruction when we begin to see a few black figures begin to get a voice in the federal government. Unfortunately this is also the time of the reconstruction when the federal government was supposed to be keeping the South from implementing things like Jim Crow, basically forcing them to follow the law rather than be resistant as they were prone to do.

Unfortunately, black Americans proved to be more trouble than it was worth, so the Republican party decided to let it go. Any issues to do with black Americans was put to the sideline. Voices were ignored and after Theodore Roosevelt left the office the few people in the black cabinet were removed from the federal government and lost any sway they might have had. A few presidencies passed and we begin to see a few voices pushing back on this idea that the Republican party as the party of African Americans.

African-Americans may have played a part in the election of Woodrow Wilson, but that democratic win was also in part due to a third party candidate. Around the time of FDR we begin to see black Americans really pushing for his election. We see people thinking that this might be the candidate who can represent them and can make things happen.

When he finally is elected, we begin to see a few African Americans again in positions of power. They weren’t a cohesive group of people, nor was it anything formal orchestrated by FDR. These were just a few individuals placed throughout the federal government or in organizations tied to the government. In fact fractions begin to form as certain African Americans push back against each other in the fight for civil rights and equality.

Income Mary Bethune and things change. Where there was a fraction there was now a group of people held together by this amazing woman who was capable of inspiring and leading them into standing together. Across FDR’s several administrations, they would go on to decrease black unemployment and increase funding in black American education. They fought for in the military, but this battle was not completed before FDR’s death in his fourth term.

While by the end of the book we may begin to feel a bit disenfranchised by all the ways in which they failed to get everything they had strove for, Watts still helps us recognize that despite their shortcomings they played an immeasurable part in the move towards civil rights. They set the stage for Kennedy who introduced the civil Rights act. Even before him, FDR’s successor would go on to desegregate the military, something FDR fought against out of fear or apathy. Of course, eventually Johnson would sign into law the civil rights act. Johnson had a had a relationship with Bethune before he took office, and it is impossible to measure the effect that kind of connection may have had on him. Many of the civil rights figures, who you may be more familiar with, were inspired by people like Mary Bethune.

In all of this, FDR is often remembered as being responsible for putting together this group of people to help advise him. However, that is not the case. The reason in which they could not get everything they wanted was because of FDR and his cabinet. FDR may not have played an active role in fighting them, but he stood by and let the rest of his administration do that for him. Either out of a desire to prevent it or a apathy toward African American, he would consistently fail to act. Any of the few actions that may have happened under his presidency were done very much against his will. To him the problems about the Americans were too much of a risk.

In his death he may have been memorialized as this civil rights figure, but it is important to recognize that the progress of his time was not due to him. It was due to this group of people who fought him every step of the way. While his untimely death (well he did get elected four times) may have caused a slight rewriting of history, it’s important to remember that this was because of a group of African Americans who put themselves at risk to fight for equality and they deserve to be remembered. What’s more, I think this book is very relevant today when we think about the existing inequalities whose existence is similarly denied or marked as unavoidable. What’s more, it speaks to the need for representation. When people say why do we need a women of color VP, this is why. They aren’t just overlooked when qualified, their viewpoints are necessary to truly overcome our inequalities.

Now the book itself was fantastic. There were times where I got a bit lost. A part of that is just because it is very detailed, and there are a lot of names we need to remember. Mary Bethune is just a leader here, and there are four or five other important figures who you might want to take note of. I mentioned them in my video review and vlog. Watts begins the book with an introduction where she talks about this basic setup of Bethune guiding the black cabinet and her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and how FDR really played no part in the black cabinet. However, I would have liked if she had mentioned the other key figures there too just so that I would have known to keep an eye out for those figures. When we’re talking about so many different individuals in history, it’s easy for these more significant individuals to get lost in the details. Once I identified them I did a better job keeping up, but that was really my only complaint in this book.

However, even with that one complaint I never stopped being thoroughly engaged. I enjoyed reading this. I did not want to stop; I wanted to find out what happened next even if have a general idea of what was to come. I was also just very excited to learn about history and politics. I’m excited to continue learning and to find other resources about the past. I’m interested in learning more about the civil rights movement and the different people who played a role in the past and the intricacies that are often lost in the history books. For that, I applaud Watts.

I adore this book, and I’m so happy that I read it. Any hesitation I had about it being too academic or too difficult to read was wrong. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the history of civil rights movement or politics because it is fascinating for all of those reasons.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Read 2/6/20 and Reread 2/6/20 – 2/7/20

After reading this, I immediately stopped and started it over again. Toni Morrison is an author I have wanted to read for years, and the only reason I never got around to it was a fear of not being able to comprehend these complicated works of literary fiction. Luckily, I really enjoyed this book. By the end of my first read through, I will admit I felt like I missed some details. I was able to ascertain the overarching points and narrative, but I was still confused a bit by whose who but more so the structure of the novel. The book is presented at points in first person by a seemingly side character. Later, it gives another first person perspective, and a lot of the book in between is third person.

As you might imagine, that was difficult to follow and keep up with. While it may be a disappointing to my past literature teachers, I choose to review some readings aids after I finished the first time to figure out the things I was missing. After I did that, it made a lot more sense. My improved understanding coupled with a genuine desire to get as much as I could out of this novel motivated me to reread the novel. Admittedly, I listened to the audiobook, so it made it easier but also likely made it harder for me to catch all the details the first time around. Although, I think the beauty of audiobooks is that, if you have the time and enjoy the experience (which I did), rereading can be both fun and a great way of retaining more and more details about the books.

The book itself is written beautifully. I could appreciate the poetry in her Morrison’s words even if I struggled to pull all of the meaning, and rereading it helped me better ascertain the meaning. That kind of writing really lends itself to this kind of story. That is to say, a dark narrative about the pain induced by racism and how it can decay a person’s mental health. In this book, we focus on a young black girl whose desperate desire is to have the blue eyes of the white girls she sees being so admired. This is brought on by racism but also hatred and bullying by other minorities for her perceived status and family “ugliness”.

In my video review, I discuss how this racism is still alive today. Despite being set in the great depression, the novel feels all too modern in its content. It is a hard novel to read both mentally and emotionally. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you check it out. There is a reason this novel is so well regarded. It touches on major societal issues in a way that hits you to your core. I highly recommend to everyone.

In the end, I gave the book 4 stars the first time and 4.5./5 stars the second time.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Engagement: 8/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Comprehension: 8/10
Pacing: 9/10
Desire to Reread: 3/10
Special: 10/10
Calculated Rating: 4.255/5
Final Rating: 4.5/5 (3.5-4/5 originally)
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half. 

Kindred by Octavia Butler ★★★★★

Originally Read March 2015 (General Thoughts)

In March 2015, I read Kindred, after years of wanting to read it. It was the year of women; I had become aware of my bias for men authors and dedicated 2015 to reading only women. In doing so, I read what would come to be my favorite book of all time (let alone the decade). This book had everything I love in a book: real characters, a dark premise, time travel, and addressed serious societal topics. In particular, I am very interested in the discussion of slavery and race because it is such an important part of American history. Even more so, it is a significant part of southern history, and as a white man I believe I have a responsibility to understand the atrocities of the past that is very much a part of my history.

It is next to impossible to tell somewhat what your favorite thing is. Favorite movie, show, or book. Every time I am asked this kind of question, I find my mind racing. Nevertheless, a few possible candidates always come to mind, and for me, more often than not, Kindred was always one of those that never left my mind. When I read it, I felt liked I loved it, but so much about how you read a book can be situational. That is, the mindset you are in at the time. I’ve always been hesitant to call a book I’ve read once, an all time favorite. There are other books I’ve read countless times, yet I still don’t feel like they are the absolute best book ever.

When I read this, I loved it. In fact, I have the draft of a blog post I started to make to talk about this book–something I had never done. I’ve since considered going back and writing this discussion, but I wanted to wait until I had reread it. Over the summer, I came across the Graphic Novel Adaption for this book, and I knew I had to have it. I read it this fall, but before I did, I started rereading the main novel in October. I got about a third of the way and stopped (I started it on a road trip with friends). I decided to finish it the last day of the decade because it seemed fitting. I am so glad I did. This reread cements this book as an all time favorite. Not just of the decade but of all time.

Reread October 2019 and December 31st, 2019

The first thing I love about this is Butler’s writing. It is easy to read and get lost in the world she develops. One of the few problems with the Graphic Novel was the pacing. It felt like it jumped or skipped details. Butler has created a fast paced novel, and by the end, it’s hard to imagine how quickly we’ve made it through everything in the book. Still, the book never feels rushed. Butler was a master writer and one of the most creative writer’s of the modern era.

The most important part of the book is how well Butler is able to bring to life something so many people mistakenly assume is in the distant past. She explores the nature of racism by following the a young man as he grows up to become his father. People are not born racist. Racism is learned. Nothing is more obvious in than that. Although, Butler makes use of this story to address common problems that still exist today. From the words we use to what people are willing to tolerate.

One thing I absolutely adored in this was how Butler focused so much on the strength and courage of all the slaves who lived in the past. Dana, the main protagonist, discusses how she just doesn’t have what it takes to survive long term. That is, there is only so much she can take. That is not a fault of hers; it is a recognition of how different things are these days. It also highlights how truly atrocious America was. The laws we had to the actions we made. Despite this, it doesn’t stop Dana from taking every opportunity she has to help slaves learn or do things they aren’t supposed to do. Regardless how scared she may be, she recognizes a moral obligation to act if you can. That is a message that is very important for everyone. If you can push back against atrocities, you have to do so.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss religion in the context of slavery and morality. I recognize, most readers are probably religious (most people are). However, slavery is the perfect example of how religion has been used to justify moral atrocities. Many say religion isn’t perfect, but it offers us moral guidance. To which I say, no, it does not. Religion is an authority, created by man for man. Morality is more than a command; morality is a conscious effort to do better by asking about how our actions effect others. The bible is full of guidance that can be twisted any way you like. Morality requires more. If you feel confident in your actions and choices, you should be able to demonstrate without referring to an objective authority figure. It is this kind of thinking that paves the way for slavery and other atrocities.

I love this book. I recommend it to everyone. 5/5 stars.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams ★★★★☆


I had to write this review a week or so after finishing it, so this may be a more abridged review. Queenie was a thoroughly enjoyable book about a young black woman struggle to survive in a world that simultaneously attacks her while minimizing the significance of what she is going through. This was a compelling novel that explores the racial biases that a black woman has to endure and the ways people try so desperately to deny that they have such biases. I am reading a narrative of a young black woman. I am hardly in a position to say what is like to a black woman. However, there was never anything in the story I found difficult to accept as realistic. I feel confident everything Queenie had to endure was entirely based in real life scenarios. I think the novel works really well as a way of commenting on these racial and gender injustices.

Part of Queenie’s problems are how she deals with what happens to her, but I found it difficult to begrudge her for acting in the ways she did given what she had to deal with. Overall, I thought it was a really good book. I was worried that the ending would be too cookie cutter, so I was happy when it wasn’t. This is the story about how a young black women begins to find ways of living and coping in a world out to get her.

My first instinct was to give this book 4.5 to 5 stars because there aren’t many obvious flaws. However, after reviewing my year end stats, I feel like I need to be less liberal on my >4 star rating. 4 is a great read. It just isn’t an all time favorite, which this isn’t. Therefore, this gets a 4/5 stars.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy (Adapted) ★★★★★

Started 11/22/19

Over four years ago, I read Kindred by Octavia Butler. It was my first time reading any of her work, and it quickly made her one of my favorite authors of all time. I hate to say I haven’t read as much of her work now as I would have liked to, but I’ve read a few and want to read more. That said, nothing she wrote will ever beat the masterpiece that is Kindred.

Kindred tells the story of a modern day black woman who is transported back to the antebellum south. She is drawn to a young white boy who continuously gets himself in danger and is in need of her help. Kindred is such a profound work of fiction because it uses Butler’s amazing imagination and creativity to simultaneously engage the reader while also forcing them to better appreciate the true horrors of slavery and racism. I can not speak highly enough of Butler, her writing, or her ability to tackle serious issues. All I can say is, if you haven’t read this, please do! Of all the books I’ve read, this is the one I’d probably push above all others.

For years, I’ve watch anxiously in hopes that it might be adapted into a film or TV series. Sadly, that has yet to happen. There is plenty to say about how such an amazing piece of work can go adapted given how frequently they happen, but this is not about that. That’s because we now have, not a film, but something in between. With this new graphic novel adaption, we can experience this amazing story in a brand new form.

Finished 11/30/19

I wish I could say I reread the novel before I started this, but I only read the first couple parts before I finally got around to starting this graphic novel. That gives me a unique perception of this story as I can compare the parts I recently read and see what other parts are like without being recently exposed to it. I definitely noticed the abridgment early on. As I passed what I had read, it became less obvious, but even then there were parts that felt oddly structured. Sometimes, transitions are abrupt skipping or shortening what calls for more time. In the end though, I think it is worth it. I get it takes sacrifices to be able to adapt this entire novel.

The fact is, it is abridged, so it just isn’t capable of covering the same material as effectively. For that reason, it isn’t as good as the original novel. That said, the content is still amazing. I don’t think you can judge the overall quality of the graphic novel for how it stands up against the original. The original did it better, but this is still an outstanding rendition. There is so much art here that brings this material to life on a much deeper level. We have the visceral descriptions (for the most part) of Butler coupled with the art of John Jennings. The art, by the way, is fine; I don’t have much of an opinion there. In the end, it works. It brings her work to a new level.

To me, the dream rendition of this would be an illustrated adaption of the entire novel, incorporating the art used here. Hell, maybe you (or I) could listen to the audiobook while following along in the graphic novel. I’ll also settle for a film/TV adaption as well :). Until then, I highly encourage you to read Kindred and this new Graphic Novel. 5/5 stars

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★★★★

Read 11/21/19 – 11/24/19

The 15 Suggestions

  1. Be a full person.
  2. Do it together.
  3. Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense.
  4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite.
  5. Teach Chizalum to read.
  6. Teach her to question language.
  7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement.
  8. Teach her to reject likeability.
  9. Give Chizalum a sense of identity.
  10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance.
  11. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons’ for social norms.
  12. Talk to her about sex and start early.
  13. Romance will happen so be on board.
  14. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints.
  15. Teach her about difference.

This is one of the books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Dear Ijeawele there! I originally intended to make this a summary of the fifteen suggestions, but I decided not to do that about halfway through. It’s why I didn’t finish the book in one day; I was trying to discuss it as I listened.

Needless to say, I scrapped everything I had written. I did that because I realized it wasn’t necessary. This is a very short book with pages the size of my palm. Some of these suggestions are a page or less long. None of this is a bad thing. In fact, I think it is perhaps the biggest reason for everyone to read it!

I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of suggestions that Adichie is giving her friend or cousin (I don’t remember which) on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Some of it may seem obvious, but Adichie frames each point in a very persuasive and easy to understand way.

You don’t need to be Nigerian to read this. You don’t need to be a mother or even a parent. These suggestions convey why everyone should be a feminist. It reminds us why we do this, and it offered me a clear guide to strive toward. I highly recommend it to everyone.

I will be buying it as Christmas gifts for several people in my family. I can see them scoffing at first, but I think it is short enough and open enough that hey might actually pick it up and learn something. Reading the list above isn’t enough. The context she provides is worth studying. I’ve already reread half of the book and intend to continue it to completion. Needless to say, it gets a solid 5/5 stars.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi – ★★★☆☆

Image result for children of blood and bone

Start 8/8/2019

I have heard a lot of buzz about Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) recently. You may have heard it is already in line to be made into a movie. I actually did not know that when I bought the book and decided to read it. It is getting a lot of Award attention as a nominee for the 2019 Hugo Award, the Locus Award, Nommo Award, Lincoln Award (2020), the William C Morris Award, and winner of the 2019 Nebula award and the Audie Award (for great audiobook performances).

Check out 11/22/63 for an excellent adaption (or Harry Potter Series, Jim Dale). When listening to audiobooks, there are just some stories not made for multitasking (e.g. William Faulkner). They take focus, if not direct reading. Couple that with a bad narration and you have a failure waiting to happen. E.g. look at to Say Nothing of the Dog. Not a bad book, but it is easy to get lost in details partially due to a so-so narrator.

I’ve decided to give it a shot. I don’t read as much young adult fiction as I did when I was younger, and I am hoping it isn’t held back by being YA. My issue with YA is that not all authors are J.K. Rowling. Immature writing is often lazy for lack of a better term. You are catering to children, so you don’t have to worry about how you write. J.K. Rowling is an example of how that doesn’t have to be the case; the language alone taught me words I would later be introduced to in AP Literature. I hope for a mature level of writing here (and themes).

Needless to say, the bar is pretty high for this work. I am 13% into the 18hr audiobook, and it has had a strong start. The author is quick to grab your attention, to make you care for the characters you’re following. That is a great start. Moving forward, my overall love and enjoyment of this can likely be measured by how fast I read it, but hopefully I can support that with a solid discussion moving forward.

Update 8/9/2019

I’m ~30% along. The “journey” (i.e. the basic plot) has been defined. While that is a necessary part of a story, I am not sure I like how cardboard cut out it feels. To return to the ideal YA story, Harry Potter does a lot of world building. It hints at whats to come, but the true threat and requirements of its characters are revealed more slowly (for the most part). The story is told beautifully (audibly speaking), and the writing is easy enough to follow. At this point, I definitely think there is a YA vibe. However, it is hard not to love the unique mythos that the author has developed to tell the story, even if the story itself could be told better. I was always intrigued by the Greek gods, and its fascinating to see West African mythologies explored here.

Update 8/12/2019

I’m 56% along, and I am thoroughly enjoying the book. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I love the book. Don’t get me wrong, there are places where I don’t want to stop (or can’t stop) because its a really fun read. But…. I am not sure I love the overarching story. I want to love everything about this book. And lucky for me, there is plenty to love. There is amazing world building with vivid detail. I feel like as though I am watching a movie as she describes each moment take place. Adeyemi is very effective after immersing you into the story. The problem revolves around the story itself. It feels somewhat predictable. What’s more, there are parts of the story that feel forced for the sake of the narrative rather than naturally unfolding. It isn’t a bad story, it just feels conventional.

Skip this paragraph if you are worried about (mild) spoilers. Take Inan, one of the three main protagonists (or antagonists?), son of the “evil” king who seeks to destroy all the maggots or maji (people of magic). Early in the story he learns that he has magic (i.e. is a maji), yet he is the one tasked with hunting down those with magic. We see him faced with a difficult situation, where he begins to hate a part of himself. Imagine being gay and raised by bigots, hateful religious zealots (i.e. anyone who shames you for who you are). That’s not easy to overcome. Yet, he convinces himself, destroying those with magic will free him of this infection he has because, in his minds, the people he is chasing are responsible for the infection. He even sees himself as a threat and a monster, unable to control what he is. It is for the good of the realm that this infection is eradicated. Then, he finally comes face to face with the Maji he chases, and again his magic swells up. He is overcome with her memories and feelings (a part of his power). He finally is able to sympathize with her in this moment. In doing so, he appears forgoes the mission he has been tasked with, realizing his father is the true monster. I understand no longer seeing her as a monster, but religious zealots can be like a cult, and the ideas they push are are not easily overcome. Even if she isn’t a monster, that doesn’t erase years of indoctrination convincing you magic is bad. A few chapters before, he hated himself, even as he completely understood himself. Understanding the other Maji wouldn’t erase the mentality towards magic. A better story, in my opinion, would more effectively tackle this problem, being yet another obstacle that has to be overcome. Instead, the author needed that clean transition, so she made it happen. To me, it doesn’t work, and it’s bad story telling. [update: it turns out to be more complicated than I thought, and I follow up on this later in my review].

Don’t mistake my misgivings are hatred. I still really enjoy the book, but there are clearly places the story is lacking.

Update 8/13/2019

I am 77% through the book. I’ll probably be done by the end of the week. That kind of turn around suggests the author is doing something right. In regards to the example I mentioned earlier, the issue isn’t as black and white as I thought. The author is adding some complexity which I like. However, even this example aside, there are other parts I would consider lazy, but overall, I like the story she is telling even if it isn’t perfect. It is emotional and action packed. Except, within that action I can’t help but feel very little worry over our protagonist’s long term lifespan or the chances of their success (because this just feels like that kind of story). [Update: there were some surprises on how far Adeyemi pushes the characters after all, but I am not convinced the long term damage will exceed the likes of Infinity War (SPOILERS: We all knew they’d come back more or less).]

Update 8/14/2019

I think I need to do some retconning, if not completely remove my previous assessment. Without getting into spoilers, I need to say that the “lazy” choice I thought the author had made was not as lazy as I suspected. The story was more complicated than I thought it was, and the characters are acting in ways that make sense (for the most part). I still feel like some characters are naive, or outright dumb, but stupidity is not the same as bad story telling. Let me be clear, the book hardly free of flaws. The example I highlighted was frustrating, and it was addressed. Unfortunately, there are still other moments that feel convenient, rules made for the narrative (e.g. after a decade, there happens to be a only a few days left to do what they need to do) or a rule broken for the same purpose (i.e. Blood Magic kills some but not others). Nevertheless, I am thoroughly enjoying this story as it concludes. I long since passed the point where I don’t want to stop reading, and that sucks because I have less than an hour to go (96% of the way through). I also think I should be fair about the flaws in this work. I am sure the same bending of rules can be said about Harry Potter. Those flaws never bothered me before, so why should the bother me now (maybe because I’m not a teenager and am better adapt at recognizing bad story telling).

Finished 8/14/2019

This was a fantastic read, and the narration was great. I can’t say it is my favorite book. Part of me fears I went in expecting it to fail if only because of all the praise it has gotten. In the end, my feelings are my feelings. The book is a thrill to read, but that doesn’t make it great. The last season of Game of Thrones was a beautiful spectacle, but it’s story was terrible. The flaws within Children of Blood and Bone are hardly on the level of GOT Season 8. I merely use it as an example to highlight the distinction between presentation and story telling. The presentation was fantastic, the story was okay.

Even so, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the story tackles serious topics. Classism is front and center followed closely by abusive of power by authority figures. Adeyemi says this is meant to bring attention to police shooting unarmed black men, without just cause. As I read, most of the villains in this book feel one dimensional, but the inclusion of Inan provides us with a character who is not so black and white. I still wish that the other villains had the same level of depth. I look forward to Adeyemi’s next novel. I get the feeling this first book of the trilogy was meant to lay the groundwork for the future books where our villains aren’t one-dimensional, and I am eager to see where Adeyemi goes from here.

As I conclude, I want to change focus for a bit to discuss some controversy around the book involving originality. A writer for the A.V. Club suggests the author just copies the Last Airbender and An Ember in the Ashes. Adeyemi says her each of these stories were big inspirations for her story, and having read the entire story I can definitely see similarities. I was never a major follower of TLA nor did I read An Ember in the Ashes. The magic in this book is different than TLA. It isn’t just magic, earth, fire and air. Rather, it is a larger variety of powers, but some of these resemble those in TLA. Apparently, An Ember in the Ashes is a love story, which apparently is what is woven into the TLA narrative. All this is to ask the question, how much originality is required to be considered new let alone your own work? I don’t know if this work does or does not do that. Harry Potter has the Christ figure and the similarities to Macbeth, but does that make it a rip off of the two? Of course not, but those are more themes. Rowling still created a unique world that she navigated with similar themes of other works but also a story that was still her own.

Adeyemi has created an immersive and unique world that makes for an amazing setting for this story to take place. The problem arise with the story, where the narrative feels more derivative of the stories she is inspired by–not just themes but larger plot structures (a tyrannical king, select few heroes, a forbidden love). I am still not ready to say the story is fundamentally undermined by the similarities. I understand the complaints, but whether they are as extreme as the A.V. Club writer would suggest, I am not so sure. I will leave that up to you to decide. I think its worth reading regardless! 4.5/5 Stars rounding down.

Update 10/18/19

The more I think back on this, the more I think I rated this incorrectly. I think I let the hype bias me, and I’ve read a lot more this year to the point that I have a better idea of how I like to rate books. This book isn’t more than a four, to be honest, I kept thinking I gave it 3.5 rounding up. I came here wondering if that was too high. 4.5 definitely is. Its a fine book; it just doesn’t stand out like other books do. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.