Canadian science fiction/fantasy author Hopkinson (The Chaos, 2012, etc.) goes about five steps too far in this wildly overstuffed tale blending made-up nature mythology with a coming-of-age odyssey.
Makeda and Abby are the daughters of a human woman and a demigod who rules all growing things, an illicit union that got Mom turned into a water monster dwelling in Lake Ontario and Dad temporarily exiled into human flesh. Moreover, the girls were born conjoined, and their surgical separation nearly led to Abby’s death until Mom persuaded her brother-in-law, guardian of life and death, to give the baby another chance. The rest of Dad’s family let that breach pass since Abby has mojo and could almost be a demigod, except she’s mortal, while Makeda is a mere “claypicken” with no supernatural powers whatever and hence disdained by her celestial kin. If that sounds murky, it only gets murkier as we learn that the “haint” (ghost) that periodically attacks Makeda is actually her mojo, which got loose at birth and is now trying to rejoin her—but in the meantime Dad loaned her his mojo and won’t get it back till she dies. Hopkinson has lost none of her gift for salty, Caribbean-Canadian talk—“those boho Obamanegroes with their braided hemp necklaces” being one of her funnier jabs—and the relationship between Makeda and Abby always rings true: resentment and anger enduringly intertwined with love and loyalty. But a fantasy setup that was overly elaborate to begin with gets increasingly absurd as one bizarre development follows another. It’s regrettable, since there are a few gorgeous passages—particularly the one where Makeda rediscovers her mojo while making a magic carpet that doubles as a contemporary art project—that remind us how good this talented author can be when she disciplines her imagination just a tad.
Excessive and overwrought, though Hopkinson’s fans may love it anyway.