FeaturedYoung Adult Fantasy

The Gatekeeper's Staff


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Captivating Percy Jackson meets Harry Potter meets West African mythos that is as entertaining as it is enriching. Magical in every sense.

My first real loves as a young (white, female) reader were Lucy Pevensie (of Narnia fame - I always wanted to find a wardrobe!) and Laura Ingalls (of the Little House on the Prairie series). Hard on their heels came Bilbo Baggins and a host of other characters, but as an adult, I am eternally grateful to C S Lewis and Laura Ingalls Wilder for giving me little girls I could like, identify with, and root for.

In The Gatekeeper's Staff, Antoine Bandele has done what young male readers of color have been aching for for a stunningly long time - provided that same gift - and he not only got the job done, he knocked the ball out of the park. (Too many metaphors? Meh, in this case, warranted.) The Gatekeeper's Staff sets up a Hero's Journey in which the main character, a young man of color named Tomori Jomilojou (TJ) Young must find his place among the magic wielders of society all while keeping a sharp eye out for whoever killed his sister.

No, TJ isn't an orphan - no orphans this time, thankfully, (not to cast any shadows on any famous orphan wizards or near-orphan wardrobe-wanderers) just a boy with doubtful magical powers and a dead sister whose magic was never in doubt, and whose life cast a very long shadow.

The magic in Staff comes entirely from the African diaspora, and I learned so much, it was enormously refreshing and incredibly entertaining. I tend to expect such things as pegasi and centaurs and such without really thinking about whose mythos they represent, and to be honest, over time, it can get a little boring. I was challenged in Staff to reconsider what I thought was possible in a fantasy world, and it was great.

Bandele's character building is superb, his dialogue is realistic, and although sophisticated (i.e. adult) readers will likely see some twists coming, the target age group probably won't - and even if they do, the world building and characters more than make up for anything lost there. The camp setting and mythology are reminiscent of Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame), although the feel and voice are more Harry Potter in my opinion - but either way, Bandele holds his own with these series.

But the single best thing about Staff is not the fact that there may finally be a bestselling mage who is a youth of color; it's not the setting, and it's not Bandele's voice. It's that Bandele's champion works best through others. He's not a stand-alone hero. His best work is done when he helps others. And that, my friends, is a heck of a thing to be able to do with a main character.

Antoine Bandele's The Gatekeeper's Staff is the first in a series that will appeal to middle-age and young adult readers - and clearly, to adult readers as well, since I loved it. The target audience is young people of color, but I want every kid who reads to have this book in hand. It's fun, it's educational, and it has everything in it those other series have. Bandele also has a well-done website, antoinebandele.com, where readers can explore the world of TJ Young and the Orishas. And, good readers, I shall leave you to investigate what an Orisha is... because it's worth it.

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I have numerous interests, from history to mystery, science to kids. I am a retired MD - a transplant left me with time for family, friends, faith, fun, fiction, film, & furry companions. For direct submissions, pls let me know why you're requesting me. Use FB or my em, julia.hoover1@gmail.com :) .

Not First, Not Last

About the author

Antoine lives in Los Angeles, CA with his girlfriend and cat. He is a YouTuber, producing work for his own channel and others. He is also an audiobook engineer. Whenever he has the time, he’s writing books inspired by African folklore, mythology, and history. view profile

Published on June 19, 2021

140000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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