When a wicked monarch teams up with the devil to oppress the kingdom’s children, the kids must band together to fight for their rights in this debut novel.
King Hector has proclaimed himself a god and banned all other religious practices. With his magical powers and the help of his sinister master, “the god of land,” he controls the souls of children. Children fear monsters that the adults cannot see, and every night kids are found dead. To further tighten his grip on his subjects, Hector denies children the right to an education, and in the face of such tyranny, no one remembers the kingdom’s culture or history anymore. Then Sunshine is born. Even as a baby, she defies the king with her magic and frees the souls of the children. Yet this battle only starts a larger war. Twelve years later, the formidable Sunshine— who has the ability to see danger “before it happens”—and her friends are ready for the next fight: education for all children. At one point, she asserts: “We should be in classrooms now.” But standing up for education does not prepare Sunshine for an even greater, deadlier conflict, which will bring either peace or destruction to future generations. Kouam’s ambitious fantasy novel has all the vibrant elements of an epic tale rooted in good versus evil, religious struggle, and fantastical magic. But the author’s faulty grasp of the English language leads to a confusing tale. The text lacks paragraph breaks, making it difficult to follow who is speaking. And the awkward dialogue is hard to decipher (Sunshine said, “ ‘Get a sit and we will talk.’ King replied, ‘I do not receive the orders, but I am the one who gives the orders.’ Sunshine said, ‘Know that now you are going to receive the orders, because when you will not get a sit we will not talk’ ”). Prose aside, Kouam’s kingdom is a monolithic culture where everyone thinks alike. All the children want an education; all the adults follow the king’s laws. In the face of violence and threats, everyone is brave. This simplicity does not do justice to the greater complexities of the story, which is rife with conflict: Even the king’s own children turn against him. But this contentious family relationship is ultimately reduced to simple hatred on both sides.
An intriguing fantasy world that lacks fully developed characters.