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ALC Review: Masquerade by O.O. Sangoyomi

Release date:  2 July 2024

Rating:  5/5

Narrator:  Ariel Blake

Narration:  5/5

Synopsis:  Set in a wonderfully reimagined 15th century West Africa, Masquerade is a dazzling, lyrical tale exploring the true cost of one woman’s fight for freedom and self-discovery, and the lengths she’ll go to secure her future.

Òdòdó’s hometown of Timbuktu has been conquered by the warrior king of Yorùbáland. Already shunned as social pariahs, living conditions for Òdòdó and the other women in her blacksmith guild grow even worse under Yorùbá rule.

Then Òdòdó is abducted. She is whisked across the Sahara to the capital city of Ṣàngótẹ̀, where she is shocked to discover that her kidnapper is none other than the vagrant who had visited her guild just days prior. But now that he is swathed in riches rather than rags, Òdòdó realizes he is not a vagrant at all; he is the warrior king, and he has chosen her to be his wife.

In a sudden change of fortune, Òdòdó soars to the very heights of society. But after a lifetime of subjugation, the power that saturates this world of battle and political savvy becomes too enticing to resist. As tensions with rival states grow, revealing elaborate schemes and enemies hidden in plain sight, Òdòdó must defy the cruel king she has been forced to wed by re-forging the shaky loyalties of the court in her favor, or risk losing everything—including her life.

Loosely based on the myth of Persephone, O.O. Sangoyomi’s Masquerade takes you on a journey of epic power struggles and political intrigue that turn an entire region on its head.



First, I must emphasize that the synopsis, from the publisher, says this is “loosely based on the myth of Persephone.”  Loosely.  If one thinks about the basic premise of the Hades and Persephone myth, the connection is there.  Òdòdó, our Persephone—loosely—gets whisked off to the Underworld, or Șàngótè, by our Hades—again, loosely.  Also, we have some seed eating.  That’s where the resemblance pretty much ends, but it is a resemblance.  Also, Masquerade is most definitely fantasy.  It is set in a reimagined, or alternate history, West Africa, which makes it solidly fantasy.  Magic need not be present in order for a story to be fantasy; a story needs only to have a setting in some other place than the world in which we live (or have lived), which Masquerade amply provides.  And man, does Masquerade provide a story.  

This book packs quite the unreliable narrator punch.  Is Òdòdó as naive as she makes herself out to be?  The perception readers are given to believe, even when we start the story at the blacksmith forge, indicates yes.  Even  Òdòdó’s mother tries to knock some sense into her.  But the Òdòdó we see at the end, as the title suggests, seems to be an unveiling more than it does an awakening.  

Masquerade packs a slow pace— Sangoyomi eases readers into Òdòdó’s story.  I will say, the plot meanders quite a bit, even when the main action picks up after Òdòdó arrives in Sàngótè.  Even so, I just know the pacing was brilliantly purposeful.   Fast-paced books have their advantages, but the suspense here builds into a maddening crescendo.  Much action happens off page, many times Òdòdó must come by information secondhand because of court intrigue, and, like a good Greek tragedy, the pressure builds and then massively erupts.  

Even though I prepared myself for some intrigue after I read the synopsis on this one, I didn’t quite prepare myself well enough.  Every relationship Òdòdó cultivates had me squinting my eyes.  You will not know whom to trust here.  In the end, I dare you to have a list of even five people when it’s all said and done.  I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  

I cannot believe that I am not seeing this book all over the place.  It is fantastic.  Please pick this one up post haste if you love any of the aspects or selling points you see.  Beautiful African setting, wonderful plot development, characters out of this world, and a couple of twins who steal the whole show.  What a fantastic story.  

Ariel Blake’s narration only enhanced the brilliance of the story.  The narration was very soft, lyrical, and so immersive.  I was mesmerized for several hours.  Wow.

My thanks to Macmillan Audio for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.


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