Ahoy there me mateys! With an awesome cover and cool premise, I thought for sure that I would love this one. Instead it was very uneven.
The story is a dystopian sci-fi drawn from the Nigerian and Biafra civil war of the 1960s. It takes place in 2172 after the planet has been decimated from climate change. The lucky ones have made it to space but the rest are back on Earth, struggling to survive. At first the two main characters, Onyii and Ify live in a hidden camp of girls in Biafra. Ify’s family was originally Nigerian but Biafra has adopted her and considers her family. However Ify is taken by the Nigerians in an attack and the sisters are split on either side of the divide.
Onyii was a former child soldier of Biafra who gets involved in the war over losing Ify and quickly rises through the military ranks in her quest for revenge. She be a fierce fighter. Ify loves education and learning new technology. She grows to love and support Nigeria even though she misses Onyii. The book switches back and forth between the two perspectives. Both girls are basically prodigies of a kind but I didn’t mind that so much.
I loved that this book was #ownvoices. I loved learning about the Nigerian civil war. I actually stopped reading early on so I could research background on the real war before finishing the book. Nasty and heart-breaking. It is a disgrace really how Nigerian territory was set up and how much other foreign nations interfered. I loved how the sister’s relationship changed over the course of the novel and how both are used as weapons in their own fashions. I thought the commentary and metaphors around the use of child soldiers was well done. I loved that women had such respect, strength, and high roles in the world.
There were several major problems with this book. The mechs, bionic implants, and other technology in the world really didn’t make much sense. It sounded cool but there were never good explanations for how the giant robots or neural networks really functioned. It felt more like magic. Also the book could have used a lot more description overall.
The plot was extremely problematic. The book was split into parts and jumped around quite a bit in time and place. While part one was excellent, the story wasn’t very straightforward after that. The pacing was slow and I found so many parts to be either confusing or somewhat boring. I know ye were supposed to root for Biafra but it was very hard to do so because the people were so brutal to both the Nigerians and their own citizens in their zeal to win the war. I do understand that the brutality comes from the historical sources.
I thought that the book could have been shorter and needed some serious pruning. At times there was too much focus on action scenes which lead to a disconnect to the main characters for huge swathes of the book. Many characters die and other characters don’t get enough backstory or drop out of the book altogether. There is good writing in this but it didn’t always work. And the ending was both kinda abrupt and unsatisfactory.
Honestly I feel like book would have been better with a lot more editing and if it was a standalone. I don’t know if I would read the sequel but the author has talent and I would be interested in more of his future work. Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther–inspired Nigeria.
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.
In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.
Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.
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