PositiveFinancial Times (UK)Emezi extends their interest in genre fiction, which has so far encompassed young adult fantasy, speculative fiction and poetry, but revisits recurring themes such as love, family, faith and identity. This is romance, albeit with a large slice of grief and survivor’s guilt, so a happily-ever-after ending is expected — required, even. What distinguishes novels of this genre is the skill with which an author innovates within the confines of a predictable narrative arc. In this book, Emezi manages to adhere to romance conventions, while turning all sorts of expectations on their head ... With the encouragement of her best friend Joy — their friendship and its zinging, expletive-driven dialogue is one of the best things about the novel — Feyi is determined to thin out her grief ... While Feyi’s meditation on what it means to be alive is a major recurring theme throughout the novel, one that ultimately decides her hand, this repetitive preoccupation also makes the first third of the novel drag ... There are instances where Emezi resorts to clichéd metaphors ... But You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty...is more literary than most romance novels. Emezi has a poet’s facility for striking imagery in their descriptions of the paradisiacal island, which are full of sensory detail. And simple lines of text are charged with emotion ... It is the three-dimensional portrait of its protagonist, together with an unusual depiction of love and loss, that really anchors this novel.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)With Moon Witch, Spider King, the second volume of his African fantasy saga, James opts for a more linear, less digressive structure, and cements his status as a wildly inventive and lyrical storyteller ... In this second instalment, Sogolon offers her own take on the story, and with it a compelling riposte to accusations that James only writes misogynistic characters. Moon Witch is no less violent than Black Leopard but, seen from Sogolon’s point of view, the violence mostly feels like a legitimate function of storytelling—and a further subversion of the fantasy genre’s stereotypically heteronormative and Eurocentric tropes ... As gripping as the novel is, it’s a long and tough read. Sometimes it even feels confrontational ... James’s story is a dense, sprawling phantasmagoria made even more labyrinthine by his stream-of-consciousness idiosyncrasies and sudden time leaps. It’s a confident writer who uses African words and phrases without the need for exposition and sustains a diction that mimics the present-tense grammatical syntax of many west African languages. But Moon Witch rewards a reader’s perseverance and makes you wonder exactly who’ll play fast and loose with the truth in the final instalment, if you have the stomach and staying power to seek it out.
Zakiya Dalila Harris
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)... sly and unsettling ... a genre-defying satire that offers a fresh take on the insidious nature of racism in overwhelmingly white corporate spaces ... Harris, who started writing the novel when she was herself an assistant editor at Knopf Doubleday in Manhattan, is uncompromisingly adept at immersing the narrative in the microaggressions that black women encounter every day and the compromises they must make ... The dialogue in The Other Black Girl crackles with the biting wit, especially in Nella’s interactions with her best friend Malaika, that lends the story its satirical edge ... Even if all of these stories, which lend texture and context to the plot, don’t quite converge satisfactorily, this book is still an engrossing contemplation of the gap between success and authenticity.