Reviewed by Rinne Lim
BEASTS MADE OF NIGHT
By Tochi Onyebuchi
304 pp. Razorbill.
Thought-provoking and mesmerizing, Beast Made of Night is a successful debut for author Tochi Onyebuchi, with its unique tale of this world of mages, battles, sin-purging, and shadow beasts. The book centers on Taj, an aki, a Sin-Eater, covered in tattoos of dragons, lions, and other beasts alike, marks of the sin of others he was forced by circumstances to bear. Taken away from his family at a young age, Taj has lived fending for himself, as is any aki doomed to do, by carrying out the deed an aki is responsible for—taking for himself others’ sins and the guilt and shame that come along with it. A mage would summon the sin into a living form of a beast, size and nature proportional to the gravity of the sin, and the aki would have to defeat the inisisa and Eat it. Most interestingly, Taj becomes employed, more than once, by the Kayas, the shining royal family of Kos who gain their power by purity, hinting that the Kayas are not what they truly seem.
Such is the world that author Onyebuchi has created. Beyond its elements of magic realism, however, the book offers strikingly true and real insights about the nature of innocence and guilt. The book asks, what if power and rank were based on purity, but then one’s sins could be physically purged from those who can pay for it? As we all know it, sins have their consequences—but what if someone else could pay the price, and carry the shame and guilt? In a world with such mechanics, what would prevail then? How can fairness and justice be quantified?
I incredibly enjoyed reading Beasts Made of Night, even though I’ve steered clear of the fantasy genre in favor of more laid back ones. This book captured my full attention and imagination, with its unique world and the interesting characters that bring life to it. Every detail was well put, and I would get lost in my thoughts as I envisioned the scenes unfolding. Through this debut novel, Onyebuchi proved that he has a talent for captivating imagery: the opening scene of the young akis dancing and singing, ceremonies, the purged sin turning into beasts of different forms, each one more dangerous than the last. Onyebuchi employed as well the power of contrasts to be pillars of his world, from the dark recesses of The Forum to the purity of Kos, from the aki’s tattoo-ridden bodies to the fair skins of the Kayas. The details and elements of the novel are framed and structured in a way that every revelation that unfolds draws the reader even more into the book’s secrets.
I could go on more about it, but then I would be ridding a reader of the thrill of the adventure of unraveling the story. One thing is certain, however: author Tochi Onyebuchi is certainly a writer to look out for, as is Beasts Made of Night.
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi will be available soon at Fully Booked. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When she is not causing ruckuses and explosions in the laboratory, Rinne likes to write about everything and nothing at all. She continues to hope that, someday, mathematical formulas would beckon to her attention and imagination as eagerly as writing and literature do.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]