Here Sits His Ignominy

I’m pleased to announce my new story in Breathe FIYAH (an anthology of flash fiction produced in collaboration between FIYAH and Tor)

Flash fiction has been one of those categories that I’ve squinted at from afar with suspicion, because how well can you tell a good story in so few words? But when I saw the call for this anthology, and its accompanying prompt, I decided why the hell not?

I traveled 500 years into the past, and rewrote history with a single letter, creating a new timeline in which we did not lie prone and helpless but came swinging with the wrath of the gods. And damn it if I don’t want to live in this world for the rest of time.

You can read it here. Do check out the other stories. They are (pun intended) fiyah!

How Horror Seduced Me, or, How I Went Over to the Dark Side

CW: wet crotch, underpants, disease, body parts.


I

As a child, rummaging through the house for buried treasure was a favourite pastime, an exercise which ranged from digging through the cracks in the settee for long lost trinkets: combs, toy cars, dismembered action figures, dried chicken drumsticks (I heap all the blame on my sister for that one) to sneaking into my parents’ bedroom and poring over my father’s medical textbooks. The massive tomes with full color pictures of patients instantly captivated me and I found myself fascinated with the ways sickness could warp human features into something other. It was, well, horrifying. But that didn’t stop me from looking at them again. And again. And again.

It was during one of these treasure hunts that I found my parents’ secret stash of movies (no, not those movies). I popped in the first cassette into the VHS player and watched a now familiar opening scene: a car full of friends rolls up to a holiday cabin in the woods. It was The Evil Dead. I watched, terrified and yet morbidly fascinated (much as I had been with the medical pictures) as the evil claimed the friends one by one.

Needless to say I scarred my young mind by watching it, and endured several nights of nightmares. But like the books, I kept returning to the movie again and again, until I knew every minute of it by heart, until my dreams were a never ending reel of possessed clocks and rapacious trees and demons boiling out of the depths of hell.

That was the first cassette.

The second was an Old Nollywood movie called Diamond Ring 2, in which an idiot teenager and his friends rob a grave, stealing – you guessed it – a diamond ring off a freshly interred corpse. The vengeful spirit puts the foolish boy into a coma and gives his family 24 hours to find and return her ring or forfeit his life. I haven’t watched that movie in eighteen years and I still remember the soundtrack. Yeah.


II

Every culture has its ghost stories (which is a catch all for legends and tales bordering on the horrific) and growing up in Nigeria, I heard my fair share of ghost stories. But these weren’t tales we whispered by the light of campfires (why would you leave the comfort of your home for the cold uncertainty of the wild???[the wild is filled with a certain subspecies of humans with a penchant for body parts]); the tales were told in the cold light of day, in between mundane tasks and conversations, in the matter-of-fact tone of one commenting on the weather, which made it its own special brand of terror.

When I was ten we moved from the rented apartment we’d lived my whole life to our own duplex. And as I sat with my siblings watching Shrek on the new TV, behind us my parents chatted with their friends. I heard my dad say about the old house: “they say the landlord seeded the compound with the bones of some dead girl, buried her skull in the roots of the palm tree.” I whipped around and gawked at him, and he very patiently repeated what he’d said. I flashed back to all the times I’d sauntered past that palm tree, all the times I’d rested under it in between playing football with my goons and said, “why didn’t you tell me?”

“Did you really want to know?”

Did I really want to know? No. Would it have made a difference if I knew? Most definitely. But that didn’t stop me from thinking of all the times the palm branches had scratched against my window, and wonder if it wasn’t the spirit of the girl pleading to be set free.

Good Lord.


III

Secondary school introduced me to horror in its literary form. After the initial Harry Potter frenzy, I happened upon a Stephen King book in the library: Misery. I enjoyed it so much that I hid it where no one could ever find it, and stole to the library whenever I could to read it. Up until that point I’d only seen horror movies, become overly familiar with the beats, so to speak. But reading Misery opened my mind to a whole different kind of terror. With a movie, you’re more or less stuck with the director’s vision of the events and characters and setting etc (which is not necessarily a bad thing); with a book, you are the director of your imagination. And oh, doesn’t imagination like to run wild? Reading Misery, Paul’s pain was my pain, his terror was my terror, and the evidently unhinged Annie Wilkes was the stuff of nightmares.

But what really fascinated me was how simple words strung one after the other could light up the cinema of my mind, and evoke visceral reactions even more lasting than some of the movies I’d watched. It’s not surprising, then, that when I finally put pen to paper in the hopes of becoming a writer, what came out was a horror story.

The oldest and perhaps most visceral of human emotion is fear and I found catharsis in the ability to master my fears, in the ability to dream up dreadful situations and explore them on my own terms. If horror is fear of the unknown, then I gain power over it in the knowledge of the outcome, in an almost clinical detachment as I watch my characters navigate horror.

Creators of horror are rarely – perhaps never – scared by the stuff they create, because the horror is theirs, and they’ve seen it in its underpants (hell, they bought the damn underpants); the terrified are the readers who are kept in the dark and watch with soiled crotches bated breath the characters navigate horror.

Do I still look twice at the shadow in the corner of my room? That depends on a host of things, chief among them being my mental state at the given time. But best believe that by the time I put pen to paper I will have known that horror by its name, and bought it some damn underpants.

I Have an Agent!

Friends, I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am now represented by John Jarrold of John Jarrold Literary Agency! Whew! Typing those words has got to be one of the more surreal moments of my life. The journey has been a long one – and is nowhere near over (still gotta publish that book) but this is a significant milestone, one I’d began to doubt would even happen.

Shall I regale you with the journey? Yes, I shall. Indeed, I shall.

In the Spring of 2018, I was scrolling mindlessly through Twitter when I came across a tweet by Stephen King. He had retweeted a video of Tomi Adeyemi (she of Children of Blood and Bone fame) unboxing the author copies of her book amid tears of joy, with the caption “Isn’t this terrific?” Two things happened to me then: 1) I recognized Tomi’s name as Nigerian and 2) the fact that Stephen King, an author I’ve read and adored since my childhood, was celebrating her. It was a wake-up call for me, that if she could do it …

See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and had written several novels in secondary school, even cultivating loyal readers among my classmates. After graduating secondary school, I queried a thriller and a horror novel, but I didn’t know what I was doing; they were first drafts and they stank, and my poor heart could not handle the rejections after all the love and adulation of my friends, so I put writing on hiatus for a while.

Spurred by Tomi Adeyemi’s success, on July 1 2018, I started the first draft of the book that got me my agent. Six months later in January 2019, I had a complete draft. I jumped into a second draft almost immediately and was done by May. Then, with the high of completion, I cobbled together a query and synopsis and fired them off to ten agents.

The rejections poured in.

Words like “wasn’t right for me” and the stale, impersonal language of form rejections flooded my inbox. But at this time I had already been active in the world of short stories and had received so many rejections that they did not bite as hard (you could say I neutered the beast). So I shrugged my shoulders, confident that I had a good story, and fired off the next batch of queries. Over the course of the next two months, rejections trickled in, and though I had neutered the beast, it was, unbeknownst to me, a regenerating beast, and it sank its freshly grown canines into my neck, and injected the nectar of doubt into my bloodstream, so that I started to think: maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe the book is trash. Maybe

An email in my inbox. Another rejection.

But this wasn’t another factory-manufactured form; the agent said something along the lines of “while your credentials (read: short fiction publications) are impressive, I didn’t feel drawn into these sample pages to request the full manuscript.” I had a eureka moment. The query and first few chapters are very important, the first step in piquing an agent’s interest. So I went back to the drawing board, perused the internet for winning queries of popular books and modeled my query after them. I also completely rewrote the first chapter.

By September ending I participated in Pitch Wars and out of four mentors I chose, two requested my full manuscript. I was thrilled! My query and first chapter worked! I sent out my manuscript to both mentors and spent the next month in a haze of dread and anticipation, hoping one of them – or both! – would pick me.

They didn’t. But one of the mentors got back to me (which she absolutely didn’t have to) and gave me detailed feedback. At this point though, I was emotionally and mentally drained. I contemplated abandoning the project altogether and moving on to anther one.

But this story. THIS STORY. I believed so much in it and I think, in then end, that was all that mattered.

I decided to give it one last try. From January to March 2020 I rewrote the first 1/3 of the book (about 35,000 words) and on March 8, sent out the first batch of queries. One day later I got a full request. Two days later, a partial request; one week later, a full from the agent who requested the partial. Boy, to say I was excited would be an understatement. But as this was my last hurrah for this project, I did not wait but kept sending out queries.

On May 18th, I sent John a query and he replied a few minutes later (not an an autoreply) that he had received it and to touch base if I hadn’t heard from him in two weeks. That was a first. The next day he replied that he had “thoroughly enjoyed these sample chapters” and asked to see the full (what??? oh my God??) Upon receiving the full, he replied that he would be in touch within seven days.

Friends, two days later, on May 22nd, I recieved an email:

Dear Tobi
Just finished – I love it.  And I would be extremely happy to represent you.
I love the story, the characters, the feel of the book, your voice…

I could hardly believe it. This thing that I’d dreamed of for so long was finally happening. I emailed John straight away with my questions, to which he promptly answered with infectious enthusiasm. Then, per the rules of the game, I told him to give me one week to give the other agents with my manuscript the opportunity to bow out or counter-offer. Most respectfully bowed out, but one agent got back with the kindest rejection. She enjoyed the book, but didn’t feel enthusiastic enough to champion it.

Hey, no hard feelings.

So, with a wide grin on my face, I emailed John a signed contract. I am so excited for this new step in my career, and can’t wait for the world to read what I have cooking.

Event Horizon 2020

I took part in the wonderful Cymera Festival where Shoreline of Infinity put the spotlight on BAME writers. I, along with some wonderful writers (Zen Cho, Asith Pallemulla, Robert Rene Galvan) read from my work. I read from my story, publsihed in Shoreline of Infinity 18 “Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll”.

The entire event was streamed live, and is now available on Youtube

A Titanic Experience

I wrote this many years back. Probably when I was sixteen or seventeen ( I don’t quite remember) A little slice-of-life “memoirish” offering. The event itself occurred when I was much younger. You know how some memories stick out so brightly that you find yourself returning to it time and time again? This is one of them.

Here’s to remembering fiery memories. Enjoy!


KateTitanicDrawing

The movie Titanic didn’t endear me for its love story as it does most people; the art did. Granted, I quite appreciated the romance, and even came to respect it as I advanced in years – but as a little boy of seven, I found myself mesmerized by Jack’s drawings.

Undoubtedly, my favourite scene was when an affronted Rose, in a desperate bid to denigrate everything Jack, snatched his portfolio hoping to find something to ridicule and instead found herself much enthralled – as I was – at the pictures within. So captivated was she that she requested Jack to draw her “like one of your French girls”, nude as the day she had been born.

And so, in one blistering moment of spontaneity, I raced across the street, bracing rain and mud to purchase as set of HB pencils and eraser. The drawing book, I already had, crammed with previous sketches which were quite excellent for a boy my age, but still, in my opinion, too childish. I sought to attain the perfection of Jack’s drawings, and by God, I would.

I burst back in the house, sopping wet and soiling my mother’s freshly-cleaned carpet. I ordered my younger sister into the bedroom to serve as the model whose features I was soon to assault. My five-year-old sister, bewildered beyond comprehension, and very much loath to sit still while I penciled on, put up a bit of a resistance and only consented to pose after I placated her with a fistful of her favourite sweets.

Drawing my sister’s form, and allowing my imagination run wild, I soon came up with my own nude drawing of Rose, replete with flowing hair, heart-shaped necklace and an exposed bosom. The drawing was OK, and any other person might have been satisfied, but not me. Reason: I couldn’t quite get the shading. I tried hard, implementing all methods of shading known to me, but the drawing would not just acquire my desired three-dimensional look; it maintained a flat, cartoon-like appearance, complete with a simper that was supposed to a coy smile. Frustrated, I flung aside the drawing book and marched to dinner just as mother was screaming for us.

It didn’t take long for my mother to notice that I was in a terrible mood.

‘What’s the matter, Tobi?’ she asked.

‘Nothing,’ I mumbled, poking at my dinner.

‘He cannot draw,’ my sister offered. I turned to drill Ope a menacing glare but for all it did I might as well have announced a trip to the grotto.

‘Draw?’ Father asked, bewildered, ‘but Tobi can draw!’ he said, ‘I’ve seen his drawing book – don’t mind your sister.’

‘Yes, dear,’ said Mother, reaching over to pat my head, ‘you are the best artist in the world.’

All the patronizing wasn’t doing me any good; if anything, it served to further anger me. Battling a strong urge to yell and throw a tantrum, I shrugged off my mother’s hand. Perhaps they sensed that their words had little effect to raise my mood, for dad said: ‘OK, let me see the drawing, I’ll judge if you are good or not.’

It wasn’t that the drawings were not good; they were exceptional two-dimensional renderings. But I sought to make the drawings realistic. I wanted it to come alive like Jack’s drawings. All eyes were on me now, so I slipped off my chair and headed to the bedroom where my drawing book lay sprawled in the corner where I had flung it in my frustration. I picked it up gingerly, checked to see if the binding was still intact, then returned to the dining room, where Mother was already clearing the dishes.

I handed it over to Father. ‘OK, now let’s see what has you so troubled.’

Mother peered over his shoulder as he flipped through my brightly coloured Box-Man drawings (the torso of the drawings were square, very much like Sponge Bob), all of which had been previously praised. He stopped at the most recent drawing and stared at it a long time.

Mother’s reaction was much more dramatic: she stared from the picture, the seductively reclined nude woman, to me, her eyes widening by the second. I had no idea what was wrong. A part of me thought that perhaps she was flabbergasted at the rapid advancement in my drawing. How wrong.

‘What have you been watching?’ Mother said. She seemed about to scream, ‘where did you see this?’

‘I … I …’

In my preoccupation about the quality of my drawing, I hadn’t given a single thought that it was a nude drawing and well … I wasn’t supposed to possess the knowledge of the anatomy of a woman – at least not at that age, talk less of drawing it.

‘No – no –’ I spluttered, ‘I drew Ope – I didn’t see anything – I asked Ope to pose –’

Silence.

I was in trouble, I knew it. I envisioned my father quietly retreating to his room to retrieve his favourite belt, one which had known my bare back one time too many. I imagined my mother; arms folded a safe distance away, quietly adding admist fiery lashes comments like, ‘small small, Baba Tobi.’ I imagined Ope behind my mother’s skirt, peering at me as I bawled, her eyes apologizing –

The gurgling cry of my infant brother broke through the silence. Mother rushed off into the room, Father hot on her heels. I was saved. Without hesitating, I launched across the table, grabbed the drawing book and ripped off the page of my nude Rose, hastily tearing it to shreds as my sister fixed me an odd stare.

BTS #2: Guardian of the Gods

Here’s a brief rundown of how I wrote this story. There’s potential spoilers here, so if you haven’t read it, and don’t want to be spoiled, go here.


A question was all that really set off this story: what happens if men gained such power as to rival that of the gods? What happens if men grew so powerful that they could – gasp – kill gods? And if so, why would they do that? What followed was weeks of brainstorming as a whole new world formed in my mind as I sought to answer the question. I soon realized, however, that this question was not one to be answered in 5,000 words; it was going to be a sprawling fantasy of epic proportions.

But I needed a test story, if you will, to see how well this world holds up. Enter Guardian of the Gods.

As opposed to the planned epic (I am now in the initial drafting stages), this was really an examination of one character and her needs and wants, and how it plays into the greater cosmic game. Ashake has lived all her life in the mountain-temple, together with her fellow acolytes, taking instruction from the priests on how to commune with the gods in a divine back and forth (in Yoruba cosmology the priests of Ifa cast cowries across divination boards to decipher the will of the gods concerning a person or certain events).

What follows is a slow unraveling and discovery, as the world she knows is yanked from beneath her. This concept is one that has always fascinated me, We all live in little bubbles, and most of what we know has largely been externally influenced, from the news to basic tenets of culture, passed down over the centuries, and for the most part we are told things and we take them as truth. But what if the truth you know is not actually truth? What if this has all been specially curated by unseen forces to keep you locked and docile, your independent thought clasped in chains or deliberately steered in a different direction so that you stumble, ignorant and frustrated through life?

Well that got deep real fast, haha.

Anyway these were the questions burning in the back of my mind as I wrote this story. I initially planned for Ashake to confront these “unseen forces” in her world in an epic battle, but decided that would take away from the story, which is much more quiet, and primarily about how she comes to terms with what she is, and her role in the grand scheme of things.

New Publication: Guardian of the Gods

Hey friends! First, can we take a moment to appreciate that cover art?? It’s absolutely stunning and just exudes unapologetic, glorious, wonderful BLACKNESS. The artist is Dominique Ramsey and you can check them out here.


Ok, now that that’s done, I’m super excited to announce the publication of my new story Guardian of the Gods in FIYAH! this fine, fine magazine of black speculative fiction. I’ve always wanted my work to appear here, and I couldn’t be prouder of this story. I think it’s my best yet, if I do say so myself. Do give it a peep, and of course, buy the issue to support black speculative fiction.

Reading Round-up: Jan-Mar

The books/stories in this list are those I thoroughly enjoyed these past few months.

Novels

1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
If you’ve been paying attention in the book world for the past six months, then you’re probably familiar with this book. It’s everywhere! Regardless, it sat for a while on my TBR and I kept meaning to get to it. But when I saw it shortlisted for the Nebula, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Friends, I kid you not: it is worth all the fuss.

Alix has a way with words which is lyrical, magical and very much fable-esque (which is absolutely my jam). In fact, this is one of the many reasons this book works so well. I don’t think it could have been written in any other style and done a good job of transporting the reader into the story. On many levels this book reminded me of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer (which I also reviewed gushed about here), from the writing, down to the characters – especially the characters.

This is portal fantasy, with all the magic of doors, the written word, and love in all the ways it is (and isn’t) expressed.

I could say this book is about how one girl’s effort to connect with her father leads her down a rabbit hole (read: Doors) of secret societies and immortal beings flitting through worlds with all the nonchalance of cats and I would be right. But it’s also the story about her parents and the hope they cling on to in the face of overwhelming hopelessness.

2. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
My introduction into horror literature was through Stephen King (there’s no escaping the King!) back when I was thirteen, and I promptly spent the subsequent years of my life devouring his back catalogue. But recently I’ve been wanting to branch out, explore what other new voices there are in the genre, and my quest lead me to this gem.

In this fine modern horror piece, Paul turns a home invasion (which is in and of itself horrific) into something bordering on madness. A vacation by a family of three quickly turns into a nightmare when they are invaded by four assailants fanatics(?) bearing crudely-made, hellish-looking weapons. Fanatics are scary not because of their unwavering conviction in their beliefs (note that this does not always have to be religion) but the lengths they’re willing to go to convince you, or force you to their side, and these people do go to some extreme lengths (whatever you’re thinking, it’s not it). Even more heart-wrenching are the sacrifices the victims have to face as they slowly realize that this shit is serious. And when the ball drops, you shudder with horror because you realize: it could happen to you.

Mr. Tremblay raises several disturbing questions which he doesn’t attempt to answer; he gifts you, instead, with a window into the heads of each character, including the antagonists, so that you are forced to answer these questions yourselves. A fantastic read.

3. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
One word: mind-bending. Have you ever felt new neural pathways forming in your brain? Because that’s what happened to me as I read this book. It is science fiction in every sense of the genre. What initially seems like classic space opera, complete with a dying earth, and the last vestiges of humanity searching for a habitable planet, quickly becomes a masterpiece of creation, evolution, survival, and a philosophical exploration of what happens when a human mind welds with an electronic construct and lives for so long that it is no longer human.

4. The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Most Americans are familiar with the tale of the unfortunate Donner Party, back in the days of the great American expansion. I’m not American so I wasn’t, not until a few months ago when I caught an Infographics Show about it on Youtube. So when I read the blurb for this book, and saw that Miss Katsu was addressing this but with a horror spin, I was immediately intrigued.

We follow several characters on this doomed journey through the harsh plains of the Wild West. This book has the feel of a sunny day which slowly turns overcast before devolving into a hellish downpour of rain. The book does not waste time in establishing the main horror: there is something haunting their trail. And when children start to vanish one by one, the cracks start to show up. Worse is when the weather turns harsh and the people start to starve and we see that for all of humanity’s supposed “civilization” we quickly turn to animals when starved, scared and desperate, and Miss Katsu does a damn fine job of documenting this – several times I had to remind myself I was reading fiction. But then, who’s to say this isn’t what actually happened?

5. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
The title of this iconic revenge novel by Mr. Abercrombie is taken from that famous, if not cliched quote by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” And boy, is that dish served really well here.

We follow a host of characters in this book, but they all are in one way or the other pawns used in Monzecarro’s quest to avenge a very awful grievance. She’s been wronged, you see, betrayed by a man she gave her all for, a man she won kingdoms for, and she will do anything to make him pay. It’s quite the irony when she recruits her former mentor to aid her in her quest for revenge – a man who she herself betrayed! But this is grimdark and there are no high horses here. Only desperate vagabonds in tough situations. Desperate vagabonds with long memories.

Through his unparalleled stellar characterization and snappy dialogue, Mr. Abercrombie takes a tired revenge plot and brings it to life. His characters, for all that they’re cold bastards, are bastards you want to know, and maybe sit down and have a drink with, but be careful with that drink – someone might have sprinkled in some additives.


Short Fiction

Things Boys Do by ‘Pemi Aguda

A Study in Shadows by Benjamin Percy

Ngozi Ugegbe Nwa by Dare Segun Falowo

Flashlight Man by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor

Rat and Finch are Friends by Innocent Chizaram Ilo

The Sycamore and the Sybil by Alix E. Harrow

The Mermaid Astronaut by Yoon Han Lee

The Ordeal by M. Bernado

Giant Steps by Russel Nichols

January update

Is it just me or it feels like there’s been 200 days of January? Quite a lot happened this month and now that I look back and reflect on everything I think I understand why.

Writing
The bulk of this month was devoted to The Novel. I queried this late last year and got a few agents to bite, but they all turned it down, save for one who gave me a detailed feedback and invited me to resubmit if I ever revised. Her notes lined up with most of the critiques I’d previously gotten so I decided to tackle them. I won’t lie it was hard. It’s still hard. Most of what I’d written had to go, and I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with this version. We’ll see where it takes me. I’m looking to finish this by February ending so I can send it out to the betas then start querying in March.

Reading
Kicked this year off with The Hobbit, then went on to the Golden Compass, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I read these books as a kid over ten years ago. It was very enjoyable rereading scenes I’d forgotten and just reliving the emotions which captured my tween heart. Next I read Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. I read his First Law trilogy late last year and thoroughly enjoyed the narration. Joe Abercrombie is a master of characterization. I particular love how every chapter in his books reads like a short story, complete with a beginning, middle and end.

Life. Well this month was devoted to exams, and even though I didn’t study thoroughly I somehow managed to pass Neurology and Psychiatry. I’m not complaining. Also I finally got to see my sister! After 5 years. She studies on one end of Russia and I on the other end. Between us there’s over 15hrs of flight and a shitload of ticket money, so we never could visit each other. But she had to go renew her passport in the embassy and since Moscow’s only a few hours from where I stay it was the perfect opportunity to meet up. Yay! I mean we video chat and text and call, but to see each other in the flesh was surreal to say the least. I grinned like a fool the whole time:)

Best Books I Read in 2019

As of this writing I’ve read some forty-odd books (all the while trying to stay afloat in medical school and also write! As you can tell I don’t have a life). Of these titles some were good, some were okay, and some absolutely blew my mind.

These are just the books I read, not all of them were published in 2019 (just 2 of them actually)

In no particular order, here they are:

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

This is the third installment in the Winternight Trilogy and by far the best book of the three. I find myself at once trying to savour each page and also read as quickly as I can to find out what happens next. A very satisfying ending to Vasya’s story, one which I will be reading again.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This book, my goodness! Where to start? The world Laini Taylor creates here is fantastical, mythical and so deeply realized that I lost myself completely while reading this, and it has been a long time since I had that happen to me with a book. Lazlo is such an endearing character. It’s got books, a magical city, blue-skinned gods! And the prose is simply bewitching.

Also, whoever said third person omniscient (headhopping) is outdated clearly has not read this book. Seriously it’s a masterclass in this POV.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The sequel to Strange the Dreamer is even better! I ate this book up in a day, flying through the pages, waiting to find to what comes next. Laini Taylor made me so invested in the characters that I empathized with every one of them (even a certain little tyrant!) You come to understand that there is no pure good or evil and everyone is a product of their circumstances. I mean, just like in real life. A brilliant conclusion to this fantastic duology.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

This book, which was Miss Oyeyemi’s debut, remains one of my favourite works of hers. It’s the one book I read every year and find something new with each reread. It tells the tale of a biracial child and the disturbing friend she makes on a trip to her hometown in Nigeria. Two of my stories (coming in 2020) were directly inspired by this book and I have no doubt it will continue to inspire me for the foreseeable future.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman, in my eyes, can do no wrong. This dark fantasy story is a very refreshing read. Here a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home and recalls interesting (forgotten) events from his childhood. This book spoke to me on many levels, and I personally saw it as a commentary on that oh-so-magical period of our lives called childhood, and how, as we grow into cynical, rational adults, we forget. I read this book twice; the first time as a reader, and the second time as a writer, pen and paper scribbling away. On the second reread, I noticed Neil Gaiman never mentioned the name of the narrator. He wrote 50,000 words without telling us the name of the main character. It was cleverly done. Very good, Mr. Gaiman, very good.

Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

A boy seeking revenge against a class of pompous noblemen. Oh, and there’s dragons. And it’s Africa-based. Need I say more? Evan Winter’s debut is electric. His writing is that of a seasoned master. Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favour if you read this book.

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

This is an explosive conclusion to this series (First Law). Joe Abercrombie lives up to his title of Lord Grimdark. Everyone is a bastard in this book, and I love them all for it. I actually listened to the audiobook for the entire trilogy, and Steven Pacey did such an awesome job of narrating. He really brought the characters to life – especially Inquisitor Glokta. That lisp!