It’s time for another YALLWest ARC! This time, it is P. Djèlí Clark’s middle grade fantasy adventure ABENI’S SONG. Because I knew that I would likely have trouble pronouncing names and I wanted to make sure I got them correct (even inside my own head), I also snagged an ALC from NetGalley when it went up for request.
The old woman who lives outside of Abeni’s village warned them to leave, but they did not listen. Even so, she takes the payment owed to her by the village - one of their children. As the adults get captured and the children are entranced away by the Goat Man, the old woman protects and takes Abeni away. Abeni begrudgingly begins her magical apprenticeship with the old woman while planning how to make her escape and save her village and everyone she has ever known.
This story is an action-packed adventure that deals with some big themes. The way that Clark is able to weave these things into the story in a way that is easy to digest (at least on a surface or subconscious level) for younger readers was really encouraging to read. Reading should be fun, but it also doesn't hurt if it teaches you something along the way. This book is a great jumping off point for some heavier conversations about related issues plaguing our world today.
There is a lot of world building to be done in this story and a lot of it happens through Asha, the old woman slash witch who whisked Abeni away from her village. It was all necessary in order to inform the reader of the world, but it did get to be a little long-winded at times - though I imagine that younger readers would probably enjoy it!
Speaking of enjoyable things, I love a story with a found family! Each of the characters is different and has different end goals, but they come together in the hopes that will make it easier for them to reach those goals. Watching their relationship develop is fun, especially when some of them can’t help but bicker and fight and insult each other. What's a family without some squabbles now and then?
For the most part, I really enjoyed the narrator. Characters were given different voices which helped to distinguish them from each other while listening. One complaint that I do have however is the variance in speed. Some characters spoke so quickly that it was hard to understand while others spoke incredibly slowly with (what felt like) long breaks between words at times.
ABENI’S SONG is the first book in a new middle grade fantasy adventure series from P. Djèlí Clark. It hits shelves on July 25, 2023 and you can preorder a copy for yourself (or the middle grade reader in your life) here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book and audiobook from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."