A California college student uses ancient African magic to travel through time in this fantasy debut.
Chloe Marshall—administrative assistant to a senator and a freshman at Cal State in Los Angeles—has always experienced preternatural occurrences. Sometimes the song on the radio will reflect the exact thought she’s having. Sometimes this happens three times in a row. She’s never told her conservative Christian mother about this of course. Her mother just wants Chloe to get a degree so she can get a good-paying job. She gives Chloe grief just for taking an African- American studies class. Something in the class sends Chloe’s mysterious powers into overdrive. When researching a project on Adam Clayton Powell Jr., she is momentarily swept back into the pastor’s Harlem. Later, in a Candomblé ritual with one of her classmates, she is told by a spirit, “Look for Oya, Exu and Ayodele.” Meanwhile, across the gulf of time, Ayodele of Igbogila is captured by enemy Dahomey tribesmen and sold into slavery to their white allies. Both Chloe and Ayodele will have to find faith in the religion of the Orisha—the gods of Africa—in order to overcome the troubles in their own eras and to reunite in what proves to be a family reunion across time. Johnson writes in a punchy, conversational prose that hews close to the voices of her characters: “None of her advisors had a clue about what was going on inside her. Everyone wanted to play it safe. Whatever happened to the ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ mentality?” The use of shifting perspectives, multiple timelines, and African-American spiritualism lends the book a distinctive charm, though the plot takes a while to truly get moving. Johnson follows secondary characters down narrative cul-de-sacs that distract from the larger story, and readers must reach 100 pages before anything truly fantastic happens. Though some of the dialogue borders on the didactic, readers looking for a mix of western African mysticism and speculative fiction should enjoy this work, the first installment of a series.
An appealing Afrocentric time-travel tale, hampered by a sluggish pace.