The Gatekeeper's Staff
by Antoine Bandele
Narrated by Nekia Renee
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 19 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 04 Aug 2021
Bandele Books, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Audiobooks
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 gods, where TJ will encounter unlikely allies, tough-as-gatorhide instructors, and the ancient secrets of the Orishas.
A Note From the Publisher
"If you know a pre-teen boy who loves magic and adventure, get him this book. If he's Black, get him two copies."
-Equal Opportunity Reader Blog
"Captivating Percy Jackson meets Harry Potter meets West African Mythos that is as entertaining as it is enriching. Magical in ever sense."
-Julia Hoover, Reedsy Discovery
"This should be up there right along the Percy Jackson series."
-Marie Reed, Goodreads Review
"The world-building was incredibly strong and the pacing was solid."
-Life of a Female Bibliophile Blog
"I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a magical fantasy world book, but is tired of Harry Potter and needs a breath of fresh air... Kamau Fluker, Age 15."
|DURATION||15 Hours, 32 Minutes, 20 Seconds|
Average rating from 80 members
There’s two things I will always adore: magical school tropes, and #ownvoices stories. If you love these too, or know a BIPOC kid who will, you’ll absolutely love TJ Young and the Orishas. TJ Young and the Orishas is an electric YA series that explores Yoruba tradition and is crafted especially for those who love adventure and magic. When we meet our protagonist, TJ, he is an awkward teenager with an inability to practice the magic - despite nearly everyone around him being able to. When his older sister - someone who exists like the sun in TJ’s life - dies under mysterious circumstances, TJ fights to uncover the truth surrounding her death and, in doing so, discovers his own power. From here, TJ finds himself enrolled at Camp Olosa - a place for diviners to learn about and practice their magic. Equipped with new knowledge, new companions, and a deep love for his sister, TJ embarks on a journey for answers. With a cast of expertly crafted characters, and an extraordinary world built around them, Bandele has cultivated a tale I can’t help but recommend. While enjoyable for all readers, my heart lights up at the notion of Black kids having access to a story truly written for them, with Yoruba tradition and Black cultural references woven into the foundation of this book. This is a story of family, friendship, and overcoming, that also touches on difficult themes of grief and loss. TJ is exactly the kind of hero every kid need. Relatably awkward, fun, and learning how to find his inner power, in both magical and non-magical ways. 5 Stars for The Gatekeeper’s Staff!
Audiobook review: Truly well done! This story is about a young boy going through big life changes in a very realistic way, while navigating a very fantastical world. Presented in a tone that feels personal, like a deja-vu of your own thoughts, the MC (TJ) becomes quickly relatable, though I have never personally encountered such events. I feel like I grew as a person as though I had experienced these trials along side TJ. I can’t wait to share it with my son when he reaches middle school age! No matter your age or lot in life, there’s something to be enjoyed in this tale of a 14 year old African American boy navigating a loss that creates a new path for him. He is a self described introvert that grows up feeling like an outsider, the mundane in an anything-but-mundane world. Pushing through that to make new friendships, his vulnerability is always there, admitting he still feels too normal to consider letting them get close. He is not the chosen, but he acts anyway. You may read the description and think “another camp adventure? Why try when Percy Jackson did it so well.” Well think again! This is its own unique adventure, with characters that feel real and individual, and a magic system that can actually be followed. TJ is a novice so you get to learn about much of the world and magic alongside him. His curiosity is contagious and the mystery draws you deep into the world of West African mythology. To be honest, I was unsure if I would be the right reader to review this as it is not exactly up my alley. However, the story itself and the way it was written makes it feel more universal. Though the author makes sure to explain that this is fantasy fiction and does not reflect the true practice of Ifa (please excuse any misspelling as I listened to, not read the story), it certainly sparked an interest in me to learn more of the culture surrounding it. The language used was descriptive, without feeling drawn out. There was never a time I felt as though I were wading through fillers. The world in which you are pulled through is rich and fantastical without being unobtainable. It makes the story much more lived in, similar to how Harry Potter comes across. This story I personally feel would be much more easily received by young people, though easily enjoyed by adults as well. The setting was well done, especially considering the overuse of the New Orleans bayou. Coincidently, my husband and I are going on a vacation to New Orleans in a week. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit the bayou and surrounding areas, growing up reading so many stories with NOLA as the setting. As often happens when a dream is about to come true, there are doubts and fears that arise in completing something you have been so invested in. But once again, this story has stoked that fire and my excitement has returned! The narrator did an excellent job reading in a tone that was easy to follow. Her narration of the dialogue was excellent, each voice unique and true to character. The only true critique I would have of her is that sometimes (not often) it felt near monotone through the story. The dialogue was very well done, but when there wasn’t any for long stretches of time, or an important or emotional moment, my mind would have difficulty staying interested and would somewhat wonder. This was no fault of the story, but the tone of voice used to read it. I have listened to many audiobooks that tried to incorporate certain sounds or special effects that often fell flat, felt misplaced, or had the opposite intended effect and seemed to take away the magic of the story. This was not the case in this audiobook. Maybe it is due to the placement, or maybe the editing job was much better or thought through. Either way, it is the first time I’ve heard it enhance the narration, rather than hinder it. Overall, if you are considering this book/audiobook for yourself or a young person in your life, it’s definitely worth your time! NetGalley review for the audiobook. This is a personal review, requested by the publisher with no bias or monetary compensation.
Thank you, #netgalley for providing me with the audiobook I had a blast!! super fun world building, great characters and the voice actor also did really great accents (which was so unexpected). really wish there was a series like this when i was in middle school! the yoruba pantheon >
This book was an extremely fun middle grade read. TJ Young is a very likeable main character whose struggles feel authentic and realistic. The story took a while to build up, but it did keep me hooked the entire time. The side characters each also had interesting character development, though they could have been more fleshed out. There were a lot of twists and turns, some were a little predictable but there were some that I didn't expect. My favourite aspects of this book are the mythology, world building and magic system. I had read one book inspired by the West African mythology before, but this one made the mythology and magic system really accessible and easy to understand. This audiobook was the best audiobook I have ever listened to. The narrator was amazing and the background noises really immersed you in the story. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series.
A refreshing voice, sorely needed and welcome. Mark my words, T.J. Young is a future classic. Bandele makes everything read smoothly, with current and compelling dialogue, anda beautiul incorporation of Yoruba, Portuguese and Spanish. I will always have a special place in my heart for stories that can't be contained to only one language. Rich in cultural knowledge while retaining that aspect of fun and wonder for the younger readers that may be completely unfamiliar with the Orishas of West African folklore. And because you can't exist in a vacuum, and extract one from the other, there is relevant and necessary exploration of what it means to be a young Black boy in America. TJ's magical challenges are only a fraction of his story, only one lawyer of this experience. I can't wait to see what comes next for Bandele and TJ both.
The production quality of the audiobook was great. The narrator was absolutely fantastic. The only thing that bugged me was the sound transitions between chapters. I personally don't care for those, but they were well done. This story depicts a world where there are magic users based on West African Orisha mythology. The worldbuilding was fantastic. Our main character, 14-year-old TJ Young, just lost his sister to mysterious circumstances. TJ unexpectedly comes into his powers and receives an invitation to a magical summer camp in Louisana to hone his new powers. Adventure ensues are he, with friends he makes along the way, searches for answers regarding his sister's death. Fans of Percy Jackson and Children of Blood and Bone would probably enjoy this first in a new series. **I received an audiobook ARC from NetGalley.
𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 by Antoine Bandele is quite frankly incredible. Unlike a lot of audiobooks, 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 has a lot of atmospheric sound effects as the story unfolds and the narrator Nekia Renee brings every character to life so you feel like you are there with TJ as his life changes more than he can ever imagine. I really like that TJ is a self-confessed introvert which for many will be something they can relate to. The Young family live in a magical enclave in modern-day Los Angeles, but unlike his siblings and Mother, TJ is mundane - finding himself unable to truly fit in anywhere whether it be with his peers in school who aren't a part of the magical community nor within his family. Bandele's way of describing the way TJ finds out about the passing of his sister is so well done and although we as the reader don't meet her, you cannot help but resonate with his initial confusion and then anger and need for answers as to what took someone who was a magical prodigy away from them all. His journey of discovery leads to him breaking out of his introverted way of existing as his main focus becomes on answers and truth because things simply do not add up. I again welcomed the fact that his journey of awareness isn't easy, Bandele could have easily had TJ using his sister's notoriety to get what he wants but instead it is resolence and acceptance that what he thought of being pure luck throughout his life could be the key to discovery. He takes risks, many being things we would regard as normal, he finds himself going away to New Orleans as part of a camp designed to help those who didn't enter the various schools of Magic gain a control on their skills. (No... this is nothing like Harry Potter etc before you think that... I promise.) TJ learns he can break a shyness and gain friends who become fiercely loyal and educate him just as much as the adults do on the deities known as Orishas. This to me is where Antoine Bandele's book truly comes into its own by introducing the legends of Orishas within this fictional tale. I found each and everyone of them fascinating as they were completely new to me... Wikipedia became my friend for learning more about them and I cannot wait for more from the TY and the Orishas series to learn about them both in a fictional and a factual manner. 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 is a must for me and I cannot wait for more. You may get drawn in by the beautiful cover art but you will stay for this story that draws you in and makes you eager for answers and justice.
I received this as an ARC on NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review Actual rate: 5 Good: - Fun, new and exciting - Real and fresh characters who jumped off the page - Fast and twisty plot Bad: - Pretty similar to Percy Jackson This roaring adventure which spins us through other worlds, camps, friends and magics is new and fresh, and incredibly exciting. I couldn't put this down, and listened to it very fast in a few days, and loved every minute. I'm pretty sure my fellow train riders thought I was insane, but I gasped and punched the air with TJ as he went on his adventures. This is an incredible book!! However, this book is quite similar to Percy Jackson. While I personally enjoyed this element, as I love those books too. It was not too much and only really the camp magic element, and it had a new spin with Orishas and the ashe as the source of power. I cannot wait for the next book! Fun, new and exciting! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy (especially Percy Jackson), children aged 9-13, and anyone who loves a good escapism story. Overall: 5/5
The Gatekeeper’s Staff is the first in the TJ Young & The Orishas series by Antoine Bandele, out in July from Bandele Books. I got to listen to an audio ARC (which, best thing ever!) – the audio was really well done with sound effects and transitions, one of the best audio adaptations I’ve listened to recently. In its basic concept, it is reminiscent of the Percy Jackson series – boy realises that he is special and goes to magic summer camp where he defeats a major threat. But that’s where the similarities end. This is based on the West African mythology of the Orisha – I loved learning more about them and Nigerian culture, as The Gatekeeper’s Staff is deeply rooted in Black American and Nigerian spaces. TJ has always considered himself the dud of a family where everyone but him has powers, and his older sister is the golden child. When she dies unexpectedly, and they are attacked by the Keepers at her funeral, he discovers that he is not as powerless as he thought and is invited to a magical summer camp. He jumps at the chance to discover his magic and find out what truly happened to his sister. This is a fun story, which also fits nicely into the teen space between middle grade and YA, which is often neglected. TJ is fourteen, and while there is a very soft romance, it is slow and blossoming rather than the full on kind that often shows in true YA. I really recommend this to anyone who is growing out of the age range of middle grade and is looking for their next adventure.
This was a very well written book, one I’m glad I read, it was a very good assembly of characters and quite an intricate plot. The main character was a strong one in spite of me being annoyed in the beginning about the main character having been week and alone and bullied and then turning out to be super special and all. I loved that it was taken from Nigerian original myths and legends, and I was super intrigued by those legends. I will definitely be reading more from the author and this series, more coming on my YouTube channel soon.
TJ Young and the Orishas, Book 1, The Gatekeepers Staff by Antoine Bandele. The opening chapter was captivating, and I wanted to read more to see what happened. This was a book that took us on a mysterious magical journey with TJ after the sudden mysterious death of his sister. Everyone in his family can use magic while TJ struggles to find his own power and Orisha guide. I love that we get to learn some things about Nigerian culture. What makes this book stand out is that we dive into the world of Orishas and West African Magic. TJ is sent to magical summer camp (in NOLA) and the journey begins there. TJ was such a relatable character, and it was nice to see him learn and grow into his abilities. There are growing pains as TJ learns how to use his magical abilities and works to discover the truth about his sister’s death. This book was reminiscent of the Percy Jackson series. I like that we can read a story that is familiar, unique and fun. TJ is a character that you compelled to root for. The characters emotions leapt off the pages. I loved the audiobook chapter sound transitions. The narration was so engaging. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and some more books by the author. I recommend this book! Fans of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Amari and the Night Brothers will love this book! I was granted the opportunity to read an advanced readers copy via the author and listen to the audiobook via NetGalley. Thank you so much.
TJ Young feels like a failure. His older sister is one of the most famous and gifted diviners in the world, his younger brother is basically a genius, and his mom's powers have continued in strength. Comparatively, TJ is normal, his powers are virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, after his sister dies, TJ is lost. He decides the only way he can properly honor his sister is to uncover what really happened to her. This leads him to Camp Olosa in New Orleans. The camp is meant for people like TJ, those with little to no magical powers. He has no idea that this camp will lead him on a journey to secrets much bigger and darker than himself as well as a path to encounter the Orishas (West African gods). Antoine Bandele's book, The Gatekeeper's Staff (Book 1 in the TJ Young and The Orishas series), is seriously attention-grabbing. Critics recommend it for readers who love books like Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and the Harry Potter series. I've always been fascinated by world mythologies, so getting a chance to listen to a book based on the West African Orishas sounded perfect to me. I was not disappointed. Bandele presented a world that is completely engrossing and I wanted more immediately. At first, I was originally thrown off by the world-building, but it eventually all ties together really well. The audiobook was really wonderfully narrated. I loved the moments of ambient noise to show the different locations and the beginnings of the chapter titles. I am so excited to see more of TJ's adventures and see where Bandele takes him. This summer camp-based read was absolutely delightful and I highly recommend it for anyone who has even the slightest interest in mythology. Overall rating: 3.5/5 (rounded up to 4) The Gatekeeper's Staff is available for purchase now. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads shelf and see where it's available for purchase. Also, be sure to check out Antoine Bandele's website! I was lucky enough to be able to listen to this Advanced Reader's Copy through my partnership with NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Bandele has created a rich and inviting world that swirls with magic, friendship, and family. The audiobook experience enhanced my enjoyment of this story. T. J. Young is trying to find where he fits, within a family of magic on his mother's side: an older sister that was venerated in their world and a younger brother who is a genius and just as gifted with Ashe. When tragedy strikes, T. J. makes it his mission to uncover what happened and what this means for the wider world, as well as uncover why he seems to lack magic. Bandele pays just as much attention to crafting his characters as he is committed to introducing his magical world. The bonds of family is strong and comes through clearly, the awkwardness of teen years and friendships, the yearning to belong among his magical peers and to fit in at his school. The characters are lively, relatable, and their interactions were reminiscent of my own teen years. I was rapt as the story unfolded, the mystery, air of danger and adventure kept my attention, the formation of friendship and the support that grew around T. J. was done really well and the love and family dynamic felt very warm and familiar. My one gripe was the overuse of metaphors and there was a lot of telling which comes with the territory of this being for early teens.
Thank you to NetGalley for the audiobook ARC of TJ Young and the Orishas 1: The Gatekeeper's Staff. I loved this story. First of all, the audiobook was fantastic. There was sound effects, different variations in voices and some music. I honestly don't know why more audiobooks don't include these effects! It The Gatekeeper's Staff such fun to listen to. I really enjoyed learning about the West African Orishas mythology. It was such an interesting topic with some amazing lore. (The author does state at the beginning of the book that the mythology is used in a fantasy based way, so may not be 100% accurate). TJ is our main character, and I found him instantly likable and easy to go on an adventure with. We see TJ go through a life changing experience right at the beginning of the story, and you root for him to succeed at once as well as sympathise with his woes and hardships. I also adored the adults in TJ's life. His parents were a wonderful couple with some solid life advice. I also really enjoyed the camp instructors! This book was like an amazing mash up of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and it worked really well. Antoine Bandele also includes mention of current events in American culture, specifically those effecting Black Americans which works well to remind you of the real-life issues amongst the fantasy story. The Gatekeeper's Staff is so well written, and so wonderfully read in the audiobook, and I devoured it in a couple of days. This is a book I would love to bring to the classroom for story time, and will have to get myself a hard copy!
What a wonderful story. TJ is the perfect main character: he's funny, quirky, humble and very friendly, it's impossible to not fall in love with him. All the characters are likeable in their own way, you can sympathize even with the villains. The story is very engaging and well built, the world is very diverse, the magic and the Orishas were a bit hard to understand at first, considering the vast ammount of information there is about them, but it just complements our and TJ's confusion nicely, making us empathize with him even more. Although some conflict points in the story were predictable to the avid YA reader (we know it almost never works out when a bunch of teenagers run to save the world on their own without a responsible adult present), the ending was still surprising to me, and it has a nice buildup to the sequel, which I can't wait to read. Side note: I just want to applaud the quality of the audiobook, it's really amazing. There are several sound effects that give a new life to the story, alongside the perfect narration of Nekia Renee. I'm not sure if they're the only person who narrated this story, because the multitude of voices and accents displayed during the story make me doubt only one person can do this, and so well. Kudos to everyone involved, especially to Nekia for the amazingly perfect job.
Rating; Really Enjoyed It/Absolutely Loved It = 4.5 Stars! This book was such a delight! I received a copy of the audiobook from the author via NetGalley in return for an honest review. That being said, at about 65% of the way through, I purchased a Kindle copy on Amazon because I didn't have any time left that night to listen to the audiobook and I needed to know what happened! I don't regret it one bit, and I look forward to following this series! The Gatekeeper's Staff is the first entry in the new YA series, TJ Young & The Orishas by Antoine Bandele. It follows 14 year-old Tomori Jomiloju, or TJ, Young, the only non-magical member of his family (besides his dad). He has wanted to go to Ifa Academy like his sister and learn to be a full-fledged Diviner, but he just doesn't have the Ashe that his mother and siblings do. When his sister dies in a mysterious way; however, TJ begins to show some skill with magic, and he is sent to Camp Olosa to improve and hone his skills. TJ is determined to use this new manifestation of Ashe to make contact with his sister and to learn the truth about how she died. What I Liked: * I thought that this was an incredible story. I have seen some comparisons to Harry Potter and to Percy Jackson, which I understand due to the male protagonist and the magic school/magical summer camp aspect as well as the magic's connection to the Orishas. However, I felt like this story was completely original. While some elements may be similar to those seen in other books, these characters, and the magic system were completely unique * I loved the West African folklore inspiration, and Bandele did an incredible job fleshing out the lore and the magic system. I'm not super familiar with the lore that this is based on, but from the other books I have read that include Orishas, it definitely had a unique spin to it, and I loved the world of the Diviners that he created. * This was Young Adult in which the characters are truly YOUNG ADULTS. TJ and his friends are 14, and some of the interactions were so chalk-full of secondhand embarrassment that it had me cringing and remembering why I would never want to go back to being a teenager! He gets hotheaded and makes the type dumb decisions that we all make when we are still developing that prefrontal cortex, and it was just great. It felt so perfectly written that I just had to admire that ability of Bandele to capture that so well, even if I was cursing him mildly for the high school flashbacks! * I loved the characters and the relationships that they built amongst themselves. It was so wonderful seeing TJ grow from the beginning of the story to the end, to make friends, and go from this super insecure and friendless teen to someone who is slowly figuring out who they are and making a place for themselves. * Once things start rolling a little over halfway through, there is not one dull or down moment, it is just go-go-go, and it was fantastic! Things I Didn't Love: - In my opinion, the pacing was not super consistent between the first and second half of the book, but there was a lot that needed to be set up and introduced, so I understood why that happened. I just felt very unsure of what the end goal was for a while and was unsure at first if this was going to distinguish itself from some of the other giants in the genre. It eventually did, but a lot of that came in the middle and the end - Didn't change my rating at all, but I was able to guess most of the twists, and that disappointed me a little bit because it felt like it was a big reveal, and I really wanted to be shocked by it, but I am able to call twists in most books, so that's not unusual. It was just a bit more disappointing than usual. The Audiobook: *The Audiobook was fantastic! I highly recommend giving this a listen if you are able. The narrator, Nekia Renee, was incredible and really brought the characters and world to life. I loved her use of different voices for the characters, and the use of accents between them depending on where they were from. Top notch voice-acting! * Another fun element of the audiobook was the use of sound effects to set the scene at the beginning of each chapter! They were not overused throughout the entire narration, but using them at those intervals added some ambience that I really enjoyed. Overall, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are looking for something for a younger male in your life! I definitely think that girls would love this too, but I know that the YA Fantasy field is dominated by female protagonists at the moment, and TJ is such a wonderful character to give younger audiences to follow! I love the themes of friendship and courage throughout, and it was just a really good time! This review will be immediately posted to my Goodreads page, and a shortened version will be posted on my instagram page @jemofabook within the next month.
✨ R E V I E W ✨ Thank you to Bandele Books and Netgalley for access to this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. TJ Young & The Orishas: The Gatekeepers Staff by Antoine Bandele 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I am so grateful for the opportunity to review this book and I was not disappointed. TJ makes for an interesting and dynamic main character who experiences normal teenage struggles such as thinking he doesn't fit in and also trying to make friends. The characters in this book were well developed and I feel like I got to know them all very well. I enjoyed our side characters a lot and getting to know them and their experiences added dept to the overall story. In terms of the setting this story takes place in New Orleans at a MAGIC CAMP!! This gave me all the magical school setting vibes I've been missing. Throughout this book I found the plot to be greatly paced, we got to see different aspects of the camp without losing the main focus of the story. It kept my attention and I was able to follow without confusion which can happen with audiobooks sometimes. I found Antoine Bandele's writing to be very engaging and easy to follow. I really enjoyed the writing style and TJs POV. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. This story takes place in our world but with magic. I found it very interesting learning about the different types of diviners and Orisha. As this story takes place at a magic camp we get all the magical class vibes with seeing how young diviners learn and develop their skills. I would highly recommend this book especially to those who love Percy Jackson or Taran Matharus Summoner series.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bandele Books for allowing me to listen to The Gatekeeper's Staff in exchange for an honest review. Gators, gods and greatness.. The Gatekeeper's staff takes the reader on adventure that rival those of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter but with a Nigerian flare. While I am not the first to compare the stories, I want to clearly state this story showcased children of color and the world of wonders available to them. This made it a must read for me! Before diving into the actual story and its characters, I want to first commend the production team. The biggest selling factor is audio clips that frame the beginning of each chapter. Sounds of airboats chugging through New Orleans swamps and sounds of explosions and flames being launched in battle enhance the reading experience. In addition, the narrator's ability to switch from characters like Manny, to Director Simmons to Ayodeji to Mr. Dubois. While the audiobook is delightful, my personal opinion is that it should be paired with a physical or electronic copy of the book. Partly because due to the pacing issues towards the end and how quickly the action takes place but also help familiarize western readers with Naija dialect. I found myself wishing I had a copy to review key details I might have missed and realize rewinding would not solve. I am still a little fuzzy on some of the details towards the end based on the twists and turns however it didn't impact my desire to continue the story rather made it stronger, for clarity. This books was marketed for middle grade which surprised me due to the heavy introduction centering the death of a beloved character. However reading deeper into the story and acknowledging the wholesomeness of the characters mixed with life lessons relative to any age group I can see its appeal. The Gatekeeper's Staff focused on friendship bonds, familiar dynamics, ancestral ties, expectations and self-awareness. All in all, I look forward to the next adventure!
Listed reading level 6-12 Ages 13-18 (I’d honestly say 9+). TJ Young is a kid from LA who shouldn’t have a worry in the world - but that all comes crashing down after the death of his sister. Soon, he’s plunged into a world his sister excelled at, and he doesn’t really have either a talent for it or a clue before going all the way to New Orleans to spend the summer at a camp that’s half summer school, half magic cram school, struggling to know enough about the Orishas, Yoruba language, and himself to survive the experience. Along the way, TJ will make some incredible friends, and face obstacles he could never anticipate before leaving home. The only thing more challenging than being 14-and-a-half is the range of camp counsellors and teachers at Camp Olosa. This is exactly the book I wish I’d had as a bright-eyed kid anywhere from ages 8-12, someone who couldn’t get enough stories, myths, and legends from around the world and right here at home. While Antoine Bandele puts together an outstanding story, Nekia Renee makes it shine off the page, breathing in a life to the words and characters. I cannot overstate what a joy it is to listen to her, and what an absolute talent she brings to this work. While it could be enjoyed very well in print, electronically, in any way - it’s hard to imagine loving it more than in her voice. This felt unlike a lot of the young adult books I’ve read before, largely in that the age of the characters and content of the book is less moody, dramatic, or “adult” than YA tends to handle with interpersonal dynamics. This book does deal with the death of a sibling throughout, and the responsibilities a child has to their family, community, and themselves. It does so much to ground the story - and is approached with such thoughtful care that I could easily imagine TJ Young and the Orishas living as happily on the shelf of a 10 year old reader as a 15 year old reader. The series is engaging, fun, and welcoming to readers at most levels. Fans of myths, legends and histories would adore this - and also fans of series like Percy Jackson, Legacy of Orisha, Harry Potter, and The Nsibidi Script. I had the opportunity to listen to and review this audiobook version of The Gatekeepers Staff care of NetGalley. And thanks to them, Antoine Bandele, and Nekia Renee, I could not more highly suggest picking up a copy to enjoy!