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Book Review: The Gatekeeper’s Staff

Table of Contents

“TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now.

Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations of TJ’s world.

Desperate to pick up where his sister left off and uncover the secrets behind her questionable death, TJ commits himself to unlocking the magical heritage that has always eluded him. So he enrolls in Camp Olosa—a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans.

But little does he know, TJ is destined to cross paths with powerful spirits of old thought lost to time: the orishas.

Delve into this young adult fantasy based on the mythology of the West African Orishas, where TJ will encounter unlikely allies, tough-as-gatorhide instructors, and the ancient secrets of the orishas.”

Title: The Gatekeeper’s Staff

Series: TJ Young & The Orishas #1

Author: Antoine Bandele

Page Count: 461

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Date Read: December 1st, 2022

This was another of my assigned books from the inaugural Indie Ink Awards 2023. I knew once again this was a story intended for a younger audience for myself so I braced for that type of a story. However, not only did this story itself grow on me as it progressed but opened me up to such a wonderfully different type of mythology I wasn’t previously familiar with.

The character development was done really smoothly by the author. We have a lot of characters through the book. I didn’t feel like any of them were rushed but steadily evolved as time went on. That can be said both for the information we are provided for many of the characters but also how they evolve into their own selves. TJ and Manny were definitely favorites but Joshua was awesome as well. We definitely have some interesting and exciting reveals in the last quarter of the book but I think looking back it only makes many of these characters even more interesting!

The Pacing was nicely done. There are two sides of this since I feel most books intended for a younger audience do seem to be easier reads that just allow me to flow steadily through the story. On the other hand I had a lot of names and a new type of magic and mythology to learn as the story went on. So there was a bit of a learning curve for me. However, I felt Antoine did a great job in not only immersing us into this world but helping those such as myself understand it as well.

This brings us to the world building. Again this was so much fun for me. It’s opened my eyes to an entirely new cultural mythology to explore. Yes this story takes place in a more modern world but with connecting it to these types of historical roots and expanding to other planes on top of that, was nicely done. There are just so many possibilities to see where things go from here with TJ and the crew!

I’ve had an amazing time with the reads for this competition already this year. It’s introduced me to several new to me authors that I hope to keep up with their works in the future.

I’d recommend this to any readers looking for an easy and entertaining fantastical story about young characters who are still finding out who they really are, what has happened in generations past and what they can do to help make the world they live in a better place!

World Building 5/5
Pacing 4.5/5
Character Development 4.5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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