Caraval – Book Review

Caraval Book Cover

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless, she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Book Review

Caraval Aesthetic

Scarlett Dragna loves her younger sister Tella very much.  Their father is cruel and abusive, and he uses their love for each other against them. When he arranges a marriage for Scarlett, she decides to go through with it, in the hope that she will be able to take her sister with her. She hopes her arranged marriage will allow them to escape their abusive father.

Scarlett will do anything to protect Tella. It is to the point of giving up her dreams and sense of adventure.  When Scarlett was young, she longed to see the Caraval – the magical, faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the magical show. She wrote letters to Master Legend, asking for the Caraval to visit their tiny island, hoping for a chance to watch the Caraval. She never gets a response and loses hope as she grows up.  And then, days before her arranged marriage, Scarlett receives a letter from the Master of Caraval, Legend, inviting her to the magical show on Isla De Los Suenos. Enclosed in Legend’s letter are three tickets to the show.

Scarlett must now make a choice whether to follow through on the arranged marriage or follow her dreams and whims and attend the Caraval.

It's only a game

A series of events ensues, and after a kidnapping and a near drowning, Scarlett does end up at the gates into Caraval.  The ticket master has a set of rules for Scarlett and her companion.  Most important of all is to remember that it’s all a game.

It all does seem like a game until Scarlett realizes that her dear sister Tella is at the center of the game.  She is missing, seemingly kidnapped by Legend.  The players are in a race to find Tella and win the prize, but Scarlett is in it to save her sister before the day she has to marry a man her father found for her.

I think the rules of Caraval apply while reading this book.  It is simple good fun, and entertaining.  It’s about Scarlett finding a footing, finding what matters to herself and what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She does it while playing a game of make-believe that might cost her more than she bargained. Reading Caraval had me wanting to go to a magic show, or visit the circus. It’s all make believe, don’t get carried away.

I hope your weekend is full of beautiful magical moments.

April 2022’s Reading List

The April Reading List only has two books. ^_^That’s about how many I could get in this April. They were both intense books. I now think I probably needed the month to read both of them. My excuse is very valid. ^_^ Here is my list for April 2022 :


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

It is about:

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Book Review

I loved the movement of African history through the eyes of the characters in this book.


A Thousand Splendid Suns Cover

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

It is About:

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

Book Review


On a very exciting note, I would like to thank Christine Warugaba for inserting a few words from this blog’s review of Belonging on her book cover. I’m truly honored.  Thank you for making my month! Belonging is now available for purchase on Amazon, and through Furaha Publishers, Kigali.

A Snippet of Fiction – The Price of Amber

Happy May! I’m so excited to share snippets of the story Ram and Amber, which now has a tentative name ‘The Price of Amber’. Still not in love with the title, in any case, I’m excited to have a 10K word count on this project.  There is nothing like getting started and having something to work on, instead of only planning.  Here is a look at the first chapter.

Chapter One

Kata right, kuja, kuja, sawa. Hapo! Hapo!”

Ram Jelani hit the brakes, stopping the tipper truck.  He leaned out his window to see his friend and business partner talking to their client.

“Amos,” Ram called out.

Amos hurried to the back of the truck and spent a few minutes unlocking the tailgate.

Mwaga,” Amos called to him and hurried to the side, giving Ram a thumbs up.

Ram nodded and engaged the controls to lift the tipper’s dump body.  The dump body of the truck lifted on hydraulics, letting out thirty tones of sand brought from the river.  Ram waited until it was all poured before he drove the truck forward to allow any excesses to pour out.

Ram’s phone rang and answered it, hands-free. His attention stayed on Amos and the two young men working with them.

“Ram, it’s Mom,” Candace Jelani’s voice filled the cabin.  “Where are you?”

“At a construction site in Othaya delivering sand,” Ram said.  “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t always call you because something is wrong,” Candace said.

“I told you I would be far today.  You must have an issue to call me,” Ram said, giving Amos a thumbs up when Amos called out that they had emptied the truck.

Ram lowered the dump body, drove forward, and brought the tipper to a full stop.  He parked and removed his phone from the hands-free mode.  He took it from its holder and brought it to his ear.

“What’s wrong?” Ram asked.

“Naria needs you,” Candace said with a sigh.  “She is stranded in Nyeri Town.  Her friends left her alone to pay for the table.”

“Mpesa her,” Ram said, annoyed by his little sister’s consistent letdowns.

“She doesn’t have her phone,” Candace said.  “She says she lost it last night.”

Ram bit his bottom lip not wanting to curse for his mother to hear.

Sawa, I’ll deal with it,” Ram said.  “Where is she?”

“White Rhino,” Candace said.

“Her tastes are getting expensive, Mom.  One of these days, you’re going to need to use your mwiko on her.  Why is it I’m the only one who knows what that mwiko is used for?”

“Keep complaining and I’ll give it to you when you get Naria home,” Candace said.  “You might be taller than me, but I can still smack you with a mwiko, Ram.  He, who are you joking with?”

Ram chuckled.

“Relax, Mom.  I’ll make sure Naria gets home after lunch,” Ram said. “Let me call when I have news.”

“Thank you, Ram,” Candace said and ended the call.

Ram started the truck and drove it out of the tight path leading to the construction site.  He drove it out to the exit of the access road and parked on the side of the main road.  Taking the keys, he jumped out of the cabin and stretched his arms over his head.

Amos hurried to meet him.

“Have they paid?” Ram asked.

“Yes, thirty thousand,” Amos said, waving their business phone. “Thank you for maneuvering the tipper.  The driver would not have made it.”

“I have to head out,” Ram said.  “Let’s meet in Karatina this evening.”

“Where to?” Amos asked, reaching into his pocket for car keys.  He handed them to Ram in exchange for the truck keys.

“To rescue Naria,” Ram said.  “I don’t know what to do with her.  Her friends are not friends.  She won’t believe it.”

“What happened now?” Amos asked.

Ram scratched his chin and shook his head.

“The story she gave mom sounds incomplete,” Ram said.  “I’ll need to hear it from her to know the truth.”

We,” Amos sighed.  “I’ll do the next delivery and call you later. Let’s meet at the usual place.”

Ram thanked Amos and hurried to the black SUV parked on the side of the main road.  He jumped into the driver’s seat and drove off with a wave at Amos.  Ram thought about Naria and his mother on his drive to Nyeri Town.

Naria was his half-sister.  She was younger than he was by ten years.  His mother had gotten her with her boyfriend, Zion Kavinde.  His mother, Candace, was soft with Naria.  She spoiled Naria and gave her everything she could.  Candace said she did so because Naria was a child born into an unsteady home.

Ram scoffed at the description.

Unsteady was a mild way to describe their tumultuous home life.  Broken home was more accurate.  The truth was that Candace Jelani still loved her husband, and Ram’s father.  She refused to divorce him and the affair she had with Zion was an attempt to heal her heartbreak.  Naria was born into a messy situation and there was nothing to do but cope.

Ram parked his car at the White Rhino Hotel and went in. He found Naria sitting at a table for two on the terrace.  She smiled when she saw him.

“Ram to the rescue,” Naria said with a quick smile, though it did not reach her eyes.

Ram pulled out the chair opposite her and sat.  He placed his phone and car keys on the table.  Crossing his arms against his chest, he sat back.

“I’ll settle the bill in exchange for the truth.”

Naria started to talk but Ram shook his head.

“If you don’t give me the truth, I’ll walk away,” Ram said, not caring that his mother would find her cooking stick and hit him with it.  He could take a little pain.

“Ram,” Naria said, her voice shaky.

Her eyes filled with tears and in a different setting, he would fall for this, but not here.

Ram pushed his chair back and started to stand up.

“Wait!” Naria said, reaching for him in a panic.  “Just wait a sec. I’m just…”

“The truth, Naria.”

“Fine,” Naria said, sitting back.  “Relax, please don’t leave me here.  I don’t want to call Mom again.”

“If you tell me, I’ll even buy you lunch,” Ram said, glancing at his watch.  It was just past twelve o’clock and he was hungry.

Naria sighed.

Aki, Ram,” Naria shook her head.

“Why are you here?” Ram asked, looking around the high-end hotel with a frown.  “Your budget does not allow you to be here.”

“I came with friends,” Naria started, clasping her hands on the table.  Her nails were a brilliant shade of green.  She was in a short black dress, her leather jacket shiny and there was smudged eye shadow around her eyes.

Ram sat back and crossed his arms against his chest, waiting.

To Be Continued!

Look for it on Wattpad, or Here. Hope your Friday is full of great vibes!

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns Cover

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love – a stunning accomplishment.

Book Review

I have no sufficient words.  All I can say is that Mariam’s character makes me feel very angry about what she had to endure at the hands of people who should have afforded her better. Even as I understand her decisions and feelings by the end of this book. 

“Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate belongings.” 
- A Thousand Splendid Suns

I wish and hope with all my heart that the realities found in this book do not repeat, even as they do even now in some versions across the globe. I wish and hope that all who do walk these paths forged by war, unbending wills, and downright cruelty find the strength to live and survive as Mariam and Laila do, and make it to the other end of the dark tunnel with hope.  This book is very raw, immersing, and speaks of a strength forged when there is nothing else to hold on to, nothing else.

“‎I know you’re still young but I want you to understand and learn this now. Marriage can wait, education cannot. You’re a very very bright girl. Truly you are. You can be anything you want Laila. I know this about you. And I also know that when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated Laila. No chance.

Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

Homegoing – Review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Book Review

I just want to say that Homegoing is required reading. It is also important to say that this book is not an easy read.  It is always heartbreaking to read about the slave trade, and the roles fellow tribes’ people played to sell off their own people into the slave trade.  Yaa explores the two different sides of the slave trade by following two half-sisters, Esi and Effia.  The two women do not meet each other, but they are born to the same mother. 

Esi is sold into slavery, and her descendants grow up as slaves, and end up in the slave struggle in the U.S.  Effia is married off to a British slave merchant.  Her descendants remain in Ghana, and struggle with the realities of being born from a slaver, and what is their true place, their tribe.  In seven generations from the eighteenth century to the present, Yaa explores the great civil rights struggles and cultural shifts in the U.S. and in Ghana, and how these struggles affect Esi and Effia’s descendants.  Each experience somehow tied back to the moment Esi became a slave, and Effia married a British slave merchant. The vast journey Homegoing takes spans seven generations in a breathtaking and emotionally brutal story.

March 2022’s Reading List

Belonging

This book is available from Furaha Publishers in Kigali, Rwanda.

It is about:

Keza, who is in search of a place she can truly call hers.  She carries on her shoulders a difficult past faced by her ancestors: her parents, grandparents, and relatives in her Tutsi tribe. Because of this past, and an initial loss of her homeland, Keza becomes a woman forged by three distinct cultures from three different countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Western world.

Book Review


A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

It was so much fun getting back to this series. Elias and Laia are on the run with Helene in pursuit. They really found themselves in a tough spot often.

Blurb

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Book Review


Slay Book Cover

Slay by Brittney Morris

Slay is one of those books written to make you think of racial issues from a different perspective.  Kiera is a truly strong and unique character.  I loved her passion for gaming.  Most important is the pure intention of providing a safe space she pours into the creation of her game, Slay.  It’s admirable and this book should be read by more people.

Blurb

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a high school student and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.

No one knows Kiera is the game developer – not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.

With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she’s created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?

Book Review


A Reaper at the Gates and A Sky Beyond the Storm bring this series to the end.  Elias and Laia had a great adventure.  They changed their worlds and brought what they thought of as happiness to life. Despite the many losses they faced.  I’m so glad Sabaa Tahir chose to write this series.  She’s a great kehanni.

Book 3 Review & Book 4 Review


March 2022 was filled with Sabaa Tahir’s series.  I’m very lucky it is complete and all four books are available.  April starts with Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. 

If you would like a book review, or a book feature, just email me or message me on this blog.  I’ll get back to you.  I wish you a very beautiful April. Easter is coming up, have a good one.

Check out Zev’s Afrotheria on Wattpad, or Here if you love reading online.

Zev’s Afrotheria – Chapter 4

It’s Fiction Friday. Zev’s Afrotheria is up to Chapter 4. I feel like I’m moving slow with this one, but still excited about the progress.

Do you prefer reading on an app? You can find Zev’s Afrotheria on wattpad.com too. Find the link below.

A Sky Beyond the Storm – Review

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

A Sky Beyond the Storm book cover

A Sky Beyond the Storm

by Sabaa Tahir

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.

At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.

And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.

Book Review

A Sky Beyond the Storm marks the end of the Ember in the Ashes. Laia has changed.  She is no longer the frightened girl at the start of the series.  Since then, she has endured torturous hours, under the commandant.  She stood up to bullies in the resistance. Endured heartbreak thanks to the Nightbringer.  She found the strength to save Elias and her brother.  Most important she found purpose and the determination to follow through. I admire her tenacity and her ability to keep going no matter what.  This determination to find another way, not to give up.

Elias’s character when we first meet him is on a quest to escape his harsh unforgiving life at Blackburn.  He doesn’t succeed and gets pulled back each time, by Helene, by the Commandant, by the masks under his command.  The consequences he faces should he be caught running were demonstrated on fellow masks who ran away. The punishment was brutal.  After a series of unfortunate events, in which Elias goes through a trial to become the emperor, he makes a choice not to be a mask anymore.  This decision means he forfeits his life and Marcus chooses to end him. At this point, Elias is saved by Laia. To repay her, Elias chooses to save Darrin, Laia’s brother, and this decision, this giving of himself, leads him to the role of the Soul Catcher. Elias is a struggling soul catcher.  He doesn’t excel in this role, and even though in this last book he comes back to help fight the Nightbringer, I wished there was a way out for him.

The only disappointments in this book are the lack of the Commandant’s story. I wish there was more about her, about why she chose to be so cruel even to her own son.  Her motivations are really not defined, and even though she makes the perfect villain, her story deserves more. The other unfortunate character is Harper. There’s a saying I heard a lot at my old job. ‘Bad things happen to good people.’ I really don’t like this saying, because why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Harper is a perfect representation of this saying. And while I don’t question why Sabaa Tahir goes this route, it adds to Helene Aquilla’s growth, but it sure sucks for Harper. I think he deserved to live and enjoy the world he had fought so hard to create.

The series came to an end with an epic fight and a lot of losses. A host of characters leave in the tragedy that is war. But happiness does come for all the remaining characters. It was a good ending for Laia and Elias to find their place.  In a way, so does Helene, despite her many losses. These four books were worth it.

A Reaper at the Gates – Review

A Reaper at the Gates

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path. Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight. And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.

Book Review

A Reaper at The Gates definitely reaps at the soul.  No one is having an easy time in this book.  Elias is caught by the consequences of the last book’s ending.  He is moving between two worlds, the waiting place, and the real world. The waiting place refuses to let him go.  It is quickly clear that the promises he made to Laia will be broken, whether he wants to or not. Elias is becoming the Soul Catcher.

Helene Aquilla is Blood Shrike and she is facing a torturous life.  The emperor is not kind to her sister. Marcus tortures Helene’s sister to make sure she does what he asks. The Commandant is not giving her a break. The empire is at war, and everyone is looking to Helene for a way forward.  Helene endures some hard choices in A Reaper at the Gates.

Laia is now with the resistance.  Her brother is safe, even though Darrin is not whole, at least he is with her.  She wants to find a way to defeat the Nightbringer, but he is not easy to fight. His cause is just, even while it is cruel. Laia is on a path that will make her the leader of the resistance, of her people.

The Commandant becomes a formidable villain, with the Nightbringer’s help. As for Marcus, he is an emperor who has no idea how to hold on to his empire.

I’m glad I read A Reaper at the Gates while I had the next book waiting. Otherwise, I would be in frustrationville. It is a book preparing for the end of the story.  Each character faces the worst that could happen in any scenario. I thought Helene had the worst luck. She gives too much as the Blood Shrike and Marcus does not deserve her loyalty. Elias is plain unfortunate. He gave so much until it cost him the one thing he was trying to hold on to, his freedom. I was very sad at the end of this book.

Slay – Book Review

Slay Book Cover

Slay

by Brittney Morris

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a high school student and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.

No one knows Kiera is the game developer – not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.

With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she’s created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?

Book Review

Keira Johnson is seventeen and she is in a high school where she is one of three or so black kids at school.  She is also a game developer and has created a VR card dueler game named SLAY.  The thing is, no one in her school knows, including her boyfriend and little sister.  She goes by the name Queen Emerald in the game, and she spends most of her free time working to make sure the users of her game don’t face any glitches.

What I loved about this story is that Keira is a very strong character.  She is smart, diplomatic, knows her mind, (except when it comes to her boyfriend) and she creates a safe platform welcome to anyone in search of a place they belong.

Slay delves heavily into race issues. They are part of Keira’s daily life, filled in conservations with her boyfriend, best friend, parents, and her little sister.  Keira endures questions at school like whether it is okay for white folks to wear locs. If they do, whether or not it will insult the black culture.  At all times, Keira wishes she were still back in her old school where she did not have to be the authority on such questions. The pressure can be too much.

Keira creates an exclusive game, SLAY, that only allows black people into the game.  The moment it is discovered, a fierce debate starts on how right it is to create such an exclusive space. Keira takes it in stride and does her best to keep the game going and her members happy in the face of growing criticism.

What I did not love about Slay was the treatment of Keira’s boyfriend, Malcolm.  He calls her a queen, so he is a king. He reads a lot, but his views on what he reads and what he takes in immediately present a challenge.  He reads books written by black writers, only. He calls it decolonizing his mind. Malcolm’s character seems fine at the start.  He and Keira have a great relationship and they are in love. Still, his opinions become worrying when he tells Keira she should not be playing video games, especially SLAY, not knowing she developed it.  He also does not approve of Keira’s sister dating a boy who is not black. As Keira articulates, Malcolm believes, ‘… you can’t be for the advancement of black people if you’re dating someone who’s not black.’

Mint chocolate Cadburys

Malcolm deteriorates from here, turning controlling and very scary when he starts believing Keira is ignoring him.  He threatens her best friend and wants to shake Keira down in the school cafeteria because she won’t answer his calls.  He turns into a villain after this, and I thought it was the saddest thing since Cadburys discontinued mint fudge in our region.  Why would they be so cruel and unusual? I really miss these. Bring them back Cadburys. Anyway, Malcolm drew the short stick in SLAY, and I don’t support it. On a side note, Malcolm seems modeled after Killmonger from Black Panther.

In any case, I believe Slay is an important book to read.  Keira is a very independent character, and she stands up for herself and the game she has created.  The safe space she calls SLAY allows an international sisterhood and brotherhood to join in and just enjoy a game, being themselves. 

My favorite quote from this book is: “As we duel, as we chat, there’s an understanding that “your black is not my black” and “your weird is not my weird” and “your beautiful is not my beautiful,” and that’s okay.”