4 out of 4 stars
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Gods and Heroes by Oladele Olusanya is the first book of the “Itan-legends of the golden age” series. Set in West Africa, the story is narrated by the Old Woman, a fabled storyteller who passed down the history of her people through oral tradition.
Divided into 9 chapters, the book goes over the history of the Yoruba people while mixing myth and fiction. In the first chapter, the story is set in the land of Ife-Ife where the forest people, also known as Igbo, started to harass the people of Ife by looting their houses in order to drive them away. A young woman named Moremi let herself be taken captive by the Igbo to discover a way to defeat them. However, as she is learning her enemies secretes, she struggles to find a way to escape. In another story, Lamurudu is banished from his homeland after refusing to worship a new deity. However, as he takes his people on a journey to find a new place to live, he dies, leaving his son to take over and lead his people to the new land. The rest of the chapters are filled with stories about the old gods of Yoruba: Ogun, Olukun, and Obatala as well the heroes and heroines of Yoruba: Oduduwa, Oranmiyan, Oba Esigie, and Obanta.
Although I struggled with keeping up with names of the various characters introduced in the book, I found the book to be well-written and easy to read. While I enjoyed learning about the culture and history of the Yoruba people, I thought that the mythical elements of the story flowed seamlessly together with the historical elements. In each story, the vivid descriptions of the setting and the characters made the story easy to visualize. I found myself totally immersed in the book.
Moreover, the characters are what really intrigued me the most. I was most impressed with Moremi’s story since she had to sacrifice a lot in order to save her people. I liked how the author not only described the strengths of the characters but also the weaknesses and imperfections of the characters. This made the characters more realistic and relatable. On the other hand, it was hard to keep track of the names of the characters since there were so many, so I think a glossary at the end of the book, listing the names of the gods and heroes would have been helpful in keeping track of who was who.
Overall, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The vivid descriptions of the characters and their interactions with one another are what make this book an enjoyable read. There were a few grammatical errors, but they did not detract from the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading history novels mixed with mythical and fictional elements.
Gods and Heroes
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