“Abeni’s Song” Review

The bottom half of the cover has a young black girl wearing a yellow dress with red spiral patterns on it and a red and green beed neckless and bracelets holding a staff. There are rocks and trees behind her and above her is the title and behind the title is the figure of a man with a goat mask holding a flute and wearing a fur jacket. Behind the first man is another figure taller with horns. It has the effect of showing the different enemies the girl will have to face.Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Published by Starscape, July 2023
336 pages
Completed August 10, 2023

On the day of the spirits festival, the old woman who lives in the forest appears in Abeni’s village with a terrible message:

You ignored my warnings. It’s too late to run. They are coming.

The old woman hasn’t come to save them, only to collect one child as payment for her years of service and protection. When warriors with burning blades storm the village and a man with a cursed flute plays an impossibly alluring song, everyone Abeni has ever known and loved is captured and marched toward far-off ghost ships set for even more distant lands.

But not Abeni. Abeni escapes the warriors in the clutches of the old woman, magically whisked into the forest away from all she’s ever known. And there she begins her unwanted magical apprenticeship, her journey to escape the witch, and her impossible mission to bring her people home.

Abeni’s Song is the beginning of a timeless, enchanting fantasy adventure about a reluctant apprentice, a team of spirit kids, and the village they set out to save from the evil Witch Priest who stole away Abeni’s people.

I enjoyed this book but younger readers would probably enjoy it more as it was a bit to fantastical – everything made sense but the impossible mission was a bit much and I think the style choices do work better for younger audiences. And the thing is this story is in fact meant for younger audiences. It’s just using very heavy fantasy elements to describe real world things like the slave trade as that’s what happens to the people in her village. It was still a fun read and I liked following along with Albeni as she met the other characters and figured out how to work with them. The ending resolution is good too. I read it because I’ve read another of the author’s stories “A Master of Djinn” which I really enjoyed and I’m going to be reading the rest of the stories in that universe – I think they’re all shorter novella’s in the same universe rather than novels so far).