The Gatekeeper’s Staff

TJ Young & the Orishas #1

Author: Antoine Bandele

My rating: 5+ stars

Percy Jackson heads to Africa – in the New Orleans lagoon. Magic camp, meet the nearly magicless TJ.

TJ’s sister, Dayo, was special. The promised child. A talented strong magic user respected by the entire magical world. But to TJ, she was a friend and sometimes confidante. It’s not just TJ who’s devastated at her death. But when magicless TJ thinks his sister’s spirit might be trying to communicate with him, and when a group known as the Keepers attack at her funeral, TJ desperately tries to find out more about his sister’s life and death, even if it means attending a remedial magic camp, where his lack of magic will embarrassingly become obvious to all.

TJ is excited when he finally shows enough magic to qualify for entrance to a remedial magic camp, but the shadows of his sister’s successes follow him even there. Wherever TJ turns, people offer condolences for his sister’s death. As if dealing with her loss weren’t enough, his counselors constantly marvel at how much better at everything Dayo was, while TJ can barely do as well as kids half his age.

TJ’s struggles felt realistic and very relatable. His friends were the prefect cherries on top. They had great chemistry. The book also explored TJ’s relationship with his family, instead of letting them fade into the background, like most other fantasy books. I really enjoyed reading this book. It had the feel of a magic school, plus a great coming of age plot, close friendships, and tons more.

This book is great for Percy Jackson fans. While those books focus on Greek and Roman mythology, those legends are pretty well known in western culture. This book focuses on African culture, specifically Nigerian. More specifically, the Yoruba ethnic culture. Mind you, I knew nothing about them until reading this book, so you can see how much smarter I now am. Bragging aside, the ideas and cultural appetizers here were new and wonderfully refreshing. The story flowed beautifully with all the cultural and mythological references, while also making for fantastic world building. And of course, the main character was African American himself. I actually learned a lot about Nigerian culture & mythology, plus a handful of words. 

I really think this series can become the next Percy Jackson/Harry Potter. It’s packed with magic, action, friendships, betrayal, wily crocodiles, talking trees… I’m surprised this wasn’t picked up by a major publisher yet. It has so much potential. I really enjoyed it.

Percy Jackson was a fantastic book, but I’m liking TJ Young much better. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Real talk, as TJ & his friends would say, this book is awesome.

Extras: I ran across the author’s Pinterest board for this book. He probably pinned them for writing inspiration, but i really enjoyed going through them after reading the book. The images really fit the characters.

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