Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a recent release, Forged by Blood by Ehigbor Okosun. The beautiful cover drew me to this one on NetGalley, along with the inclusion of Nigerian mythology. Did I love it? Read on to find out all my thoughts about Forged by Blood, which is available now wherever you get your books.
A brilliant new voice brings a brilliant new novel: debut author Ehigbor Okosun’s first book in an action-packed, poignant duology inspired by Nigerian mythology–full of magic and emotion and set in a highly atmospheric, complex world in which a young woman fights to survive a tyrannical society, having everything stripped away from her, and seeks vengeance for her mother’s murder and the spilled blood of her people.
In the midst of a tyrannical regime and political invasion, Dèmi just wants to survive: to avoid the suspicion of the nonmagical Ajes who occupy her ancestral homeland of Ife; to escape the King’s brutal genocide of her people—the darker skinned, magic wielding Oluso; and to live peacefully with her secretive mother while learning to control the terrifying blood magic that is her birthright.
But when Dèmi’s misplaced trust costs her mother’s life, survival gives way to vengeance. She bides her time until the devious Lord Ekwensi grants her the perfect opportunity—kidnap the Aje prince, Jonas, and bargain with his life to save the remaining Oluso. With the help of her reckless childhood friend Colin, Dèmi succeeds, but discovers that she and Jonas share more than deadly secrets; every moment tangles them further into a forbidden, unmistakable attraction, much to Colin’s—and Dèmi’s—distress.
The kidnapping is now a joint mission: to return to the King, help get Lord Ekwensi on the council, and bolster the voice of the Oluso in a system designed to silence them. But the way is dangerous, Dèmi’s magic is growing yet uncertain, and it’s not clear if she can trust the two men at her side.
A tale of rebellion and redemption, race and class, love and trust and betrayal, Forged by Blood is epic fantasy at its finest, from an enthusiastic, emerging voice.
***Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing a copy of Forged by Blood via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I struggled so much with this book, but there were some things that I really loved. The mythology and culture were fascinating, and I really enjoyed learning about it over the course of the story. The exploration of themes related to colonization, racism, and colorism was thought-provoking and gut-wrenching. The author painted a vivid, grim picture of what life is like for those who face systematic persecution at the hands of a colonizer. I also appreciated the nuanced examination of revenge versus justice and the difficulties inherent in deciding how best to change a corrupt system.
Despite having some great themes and an impressive backdrop, the execution of the story was rough. I was hooked in the beginning and completely invested for the first few chapters. Then the nine year time jump happened, and I hated it. All the momentum of the first chapters came to a screeching halt, and it felt like I was back at the beginning of the story. Everything just sort of meandered around from there until the climax at the end. The pacing was all over the place with so many lulls my eyes glazed over. The end was okay and set up some interesting conflicts for the next book, but all of the supposedly shocking backgrounds and connections between the characters just left me unsatisfied and a little bit confused. I came away from it all not really caring what happens next, largely because I can sort of guess how it will go. So, I don’t think I’ll pick up the sequel.
Now on to the thing I disliked the most about this book: the characters and their relationships. I didn’t hate the main character, Dèmi. She was fascinating and had a life full of trauma she was attempting to overcome. She just wanted to do what was best for her people, and I really liked how her character was used to explore the ethics of revenge and justice. The problem was the boys, Colin and Jonas. They dragged her character down into a stupid love triangle, and I hated it, especially since both of the boys lacked depth. Fated mate pairings can be riveting, but this book did that trope dirty. Everything was so obvious and insta-love. I was cringing. The sad thing is Jonas could have been used to explore class and race privilege in such fascinating ways because of his unique position. Instead we got a bit of shallow lip service to that topic, and he and Colin were largely reduced to making googly eyes and fighting over Dèmi. It felt juvenile and was so frustrating to read.
All in all, this book was not for me. It had such a vividly imagined setting, but the story was a let down. The tropes were just a little too tropey, and the annoying love triangle had me rolling my eyes so much. I’m going to be generous and rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars because I appreciate what it was trying to do even though I didn’t love it.
Have you read Forged by Blood? Let me know what you think down in the comments!