This Nigerian influenced fantasy will transport you to a world full of sin-beasts, tantalizing food, and a story that will change the very foundation of the world they live upon. Beats Made of Night is a fantastic novel, that engages with issues such as injustice, sin/purity, and revolution.
Mages can extract a sin from a sinner that manifests itself as a sin-beast. These inky creatures are lethal, killing anything they can, until an aki, a sin-eater, must catch them, kill them, and ingest them. For each time they do this, the sin extracts a terrible price – the beast is forever tattooed on their skin, and they live with the sinner’s guilt in their mind, haunting their dreams and conscience. But Taj, one of the most talented aki in Kos, is going to get a job he cannot refuse and eating the sin of a royal family turns into something more – something both dangerous and life changing.
What first drew me to the book was the mention of Nigerian influenced fantasy, as well as the concept of the sin-beasts. And it remains one of my favorite elements of the book. The world building here is intense and immersive. While we jump around a bit to get used to it, once you do, this world will suck you in. There’s the descriptions of food, the exploration of the entire sin-eating process, and even some history about the family’s relationships to sin/purity. Witnessing the ‘birth’ and death of these sins is fascinating – a dance in and of itself. If that description piques your interest at all, this is a must read.
The next element that I loved, but did not even anticipate, was the whole exploration of sin/purity. There is conflict, because the sin-eaters are an entirely necessary function of society, but they are looked down upon and treated horribly. At the same time, the royal family is supposed to be ‘above sin’, so they are forced to confess every little sin and the price of this, and that culture, is a very short life expectancy for the sin-eaters.
So, there’s this interaction between confession, absolution, and the guilt that really intrigued me and held my attention. For me, it was this larger indication of the injustice of the system that is easier to see – when the upper levels of society force their ‘guilt’ or ‘sins’ upon the lower classes. Those below must suffer for the lives of those above the clouds and the royal family of Kos, the city of the novel, in particular.
(There are a bunch of other great themes, but I cannot really talk about them without spoiling key elements of the plot. So just trust me that there is even more depth in terms of plot/society).
Taj himself was an interesting character because he is both hardened and also compassionate. His mentality to care only about himself is a defense mechanism to protect him from the sins. At the same time, he is deeply caring about those in his life. Yet there is something brewing under the surface of Taj – something simmering deep below, like watching too many incidents of injustice, perhaps resentment. This deeper undercurrent intrigued me. As Taj grows, he becomes fiercer and more entrancing. All these complexities come to light as the story continues.
My favorite characters were most definitely some of the side characters – Arzu and Aliya. One is a mage in training and another is Taj’s body guard when he comes into the palace. Onyebuchi does a fabulous job at creating side characters which allow you to peek underneath their surface. I just wish we had more details of them! I would read whole books about each of these characters.
While the plot speeds up near the end in a whirlwind that sort of picks you up off the ground, Beasts Made of Night is a YA fantasy book where the world building did not disappoint. The interaction between this, the deeper themes of the book, and a mysterious plot made the book such an enjoyable and thought provoking read. If you are searching for your next fantasy book to read, enjoy the sound of Nigerian influenced magic, or just want to read about a fabulous world – this book is for you. Beasts Made of Night seems to ask us what exactly we will sacrifice and when we have had enough.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from First to Read.
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