Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: Forged by Blood

Author: Ehigbor Okosun

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release date: 17th August 2023

Forged by Blood

Reviewed by: Pauline Morgan

Other details: paperback £9.19

Forged by Blood by Ehigbor Okosun

Pauline Morgan

When high fantasy began to be popular, it tended to model itself on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, setting the precedents for the genre for many years. This was exacerbated not only by his source material (Northern European) but also by the fact that most of the writers entering the genre were English Speakers from the Northern Hemisphere. Times have changed. There now is a far greater range of voices that contribute to the genre. The cultures authors draw on are global and have energized a genre that was beginning to become stale.

            Ehigbor Okosun is a Nigerian-American immigrant who has built this, her debut novel, on Nigerian folklore and myth. It is, however, a constructed fantasy world complete with a map, geography and its own history and language. Throughout, though, there are echoes of African colonial history.

            There is a map of the part of the world where the action takes place, but without a scale, it is sometimes difficult to judge distances. It is a tribal landscape, with the peoples in the far north, Eingard, having paler skins than those tribes further south. The Eingardians were conquerors, having enslaved the peoples of other regions and suppressed their religion and language. This situation has echoes of the European colonization of Africa. Mixed in with the political issues is magic. Some are born with the potential to do magic. It is not known how their gifts will manifest, but if they are not trained, these people can be very dangerous. The rulers are determined to exterminate those with magical ability. Like European fey, they are affected by iron, so this is a good indicator of those affected, as they will avoid it.

            The first-person narrator is Dèmi, whom we initially meet at the age of eight when Edith, an Eingardian woman, brings to her mother a boy who has been poisoned by a plant and is desperate for Dèmi’s mother to heal him. She uses magic to do so. Edith betrays them. Dèmi’s mother is killed, and she flees. She thought that she could trust the boy, Jonas, but he appeared to betray her as well. Nine years later, Dèmi is living in the port town of Benin, having been adopted into a family of magic wielders. They live quietly, staying under the radar. The quiet existence begins to unravel when she is persuaded to kidnap the nephew of the king. The instigator of the plot, Lord Ekwensi, believes this action will help him become a member of the ruling council and, he says, give him a chance to engender more equality and representation for all the tribes that make up the country. The person to be kidnapped turns out to be Jonas.

            This novel starts well, with a lot of thought being given to the creation of the world, politics and magic system. As it progresses, the plot becomes much more generic. Too many of the principal characters are royalty or are connected with the aristocracy. What begins as a story of ordinary, albeit oppressed people, finding ways to survive becomes a tale of political machinations and, ultimately, a romance.

            While there is much here that there is much in this debut novel to delight, the outcome is too easy. However, further novels by this author may well have stronger and more original plot elements.

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