Synopsis (From GoodReads):Erik, a former teen star living in San Francisco, thought his life was complicated; having his ex-boyfriend in jail because of the scandal that destroyed his career seemed overwhelming. Then Erik learned he was Blooded: descended from the Gods.
Struggling with a power he doesn’t understand and can barely control, Erik discovers that a secret government agency is selling off Blooded like lab rats to a rival branch of preternatural beings in ’Zebub—San Francisco’s mirror city in an alternate dimension.
Lil, a timid apprentice in ’Zebub, is searching for answers to her parents’ sudden and mysterious deaths. Surrounded by those who wish her harm and view her as a lesser being, Lil delves into a forgotten history that those in power will go to dangerous lengths to keep buried.
What neither Erik nor Lil realize is that a darkness is coming, something none have faced in living memory. It eats. It hunts. And it knows them. In The Root, the dark and surging urban fantasy debut from Na’amen Tilahun, two worlds must come together if even a remnant of one is to survive.
Review:I first learned about The Root, by Na'amen Tilahun, at the Bay Area Book Festival in June of this year. I was attending a discussion about YA Fantasy and the author was on the panel.
|Na'amen Gobert Tilahun is seated on the far left.|
What I liked:
It was refreshing to read a book populated with so much diversity. There are gay characters, straight characters, people who are transgendered, and a rainbow of ethnicities. Living in the Bay Area where part of the book is set, I can tell you that this is not political correctness, this IS San Francisco. I also loved that they were fully-fleshed individuals with many aspects to their personas. Their gender, sexual preference, or ethnicity was not the only distinguishing characteristic. They were not treated as tokens, but as people!
I have to use the plural because there are two different universes in this book: Zebub and Earth. There are supposed to be mirrors of each other (or perhaps distant futures...). I didn't really see the similarities, but I did enjoy how unusual and exotic Zebub was from San Francisco. In Zebub, there are eleven courts and their palaces are called Hives. Each court seems to have a specific emphasis (The Court of Sorrow and Riches, The Court of Pain and Solitude etc.) and each palace is filled with eye-catching details such as special rooms or wall that are alive! When the action bounces to San Francisco, the author uses creepy industrial complexes and the towering skyscrapers of the Financial District to menacing effect.
I loved how creative Na'amen Tilahun got with the various creatures that populated Zebub. I can't fully describe many of them, but let's just say many don't resemble humans at all. I often think about this when I read books that are set on other planets or universes: why would the life-forms look anything like humans? Some of the creatures are gases, or collections of objects, others do look like animals we would recognize such as dragons, or giant insects. This was so well done in this book!
What I was mixed about:Exposition:
The author obviously has a fertile imagination and a need to describe everything to the reader. But I found it confusing to keep track of the various factions, alliances, courts, and names (some of which were so similar, I was frustrated).
Perhaps a glossary at the end of the book would have been helpful to help me sort out who was who. So much was going on that did need explanations. But I think some of the details would have been better expressed on a need to know basis. It would have made for a faster-paced book.
Overall, there is so much to recommend in this novel: great characters, new worlds, alliances and betrayals... The end was a cliffhanger so I hope that the next book comes out soon. I will be eager to read it.
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: Bought by Me
Recommendation: This is a imaginative debut that I hope will lead to several fun books. Fans of Fantasy will love this book.