Top critical review
Solid, but the plot could be better-defined throughout
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2022
Certain scenes in this final Tristan Strong novel are terrific, but overall I would say that the middle-grade #ownvoices fantasy trilogy has never managed to recapture the magic of its first volume for me. As engaging as it remains to see black folk heroes and African gods brought to life in a modern plot like this, there's not a strong enough sense throughout of what the villains are attempting to achieve or how the protagonist and his allies are acting to thwart it, and I feel some tonal whiplash in how the depictions of historical and contemporary atrocities against African Americans are balanced with the maturity level of the primary intended audience.
(Are we really supposed to laugh at the comically hapless henchmen who keep threatening to call the cops on innocent black kids and literally "saying the quiet part out loud" when explaining the reasons they totally shouldn't be called racist, knowing that these behaviors directly hurt and kill the children's analogues in the real world? Such topics aren't necessarily off-limits for humor, but I'm not sure author Kwame Mbalia achieves the right alchemy in how he frames them here.)
Still, I do appreciate this series in general, and would happily recommend it to any readers looking for fiction with preteen black heroes and a largely black cast. It just isn't telling as tight and clear a story as I want it to.
This volume: ★★★☆☆
Overall series: ★★★☆☆
Volumes ranked: 1 > 3 > 2