The third installment of Ambau’s (Desta and the Winds of Washaa Umera, 2013, etc.) YA fantasy series, set in 1960s Ethiopia, continues the adventures of a young shepherd boy on an epic search to find a magic ancestral coin.
The story chronicles approximately three years of teenage Desta’s life after he leaves his home to pursue his education in a distant town. Finding himself homeless with no money, he relies on his positive existential philosophy to overcome the hardships that threaten to derail his dreams of getting an education and finding the twin of a coin that his father possesses. Years earlier, Desta’s grandfather’s spirit revealed that the young man might be the one to fulfill a prophecy of reuniting the two magical coins; King Solomon had made them thousands of years ago for the descendants of his own two children. Desta, who sees the whole world as his extended family, finds work where he can to survive. He gets into a new school and quickly becomes a standout student with a voracious appetite for learning. But after he suffers physical and emotional torment outside of school, he’s forced to ask himself whether his education—and his quest—is worth the steep cost. This story, powered by vivid descriptions of an Ethiopia of decades past, is much more than an allegory about a young boy—it’s a cultural and historical experience. Ambau creates a narrative that has universal thematic appeal but is also undeniably fueled by Ethiopian culture and perspective. For example, when Desta receives unexpected monetary support from an older brother, he says: “This is what the desert must feel like when it receives a sudden shower from out of the blue sky.” This immersive African parable should appeal to young and adult readers alike—even if a bottle of tella and a slice of spiced honey bread aren’t included.
An equally entertaining and edifying tale of Africa.