#REVIEW: Requiem Moon, by C.T. Rwizi


I keep telling y’all to read more African fantasy and science fiction literature. I have been on this for at least a couple of years now. C.T. Rwizi was born in Zimbabwe, raised in Swaziland and currently lives in South Africa, and his phenomenal debut novel Scarlet Odyssey was my favorite book of last year. I have had the sequel, Requiem Moon, pre-ordered for months. It jumped to the top of my queue as soon as it got into the house, and I finished it this morning, and …

… man, this guy is not a fluke. I admit it! I was kind of worried. I’ve read enough sequels to great debut novels that weren’t great, and if I slip and say “trilogy” at any point in this piece, be aware that I have no idea how many books Rwizi plans this series to run. I know that it’s entirely possible for a second book to fall apart, and there’s good reason for that; second books in a series are a fuckton harder to write than first books, and they’re frequently written under time pressure to boot; you had your whole life to get that debut novel ready, and the sequel needs to be out in a year. Look around for the sequel to Skylights. Believe me, I understand second book syndrome.

I am pleased to say that while I don’t love Requiem Moon quite as much as I loved Scarlet Odyssey, and it and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue are battling it out in my head for my favorite book of the month, it is still a phenomenal novel and is absolutely a worthy sequel to the original.

My only regret? I probably should have reread Scarlet Odyssey before I picked this one up. It does a great job of getting you caught up, but there is a lot going on in this book. You lose the coming-of-age narrative of the first book and much of the prejudice that the mystic Musalodi had to put up with in the first novel, and also the travelogue aspect, as the entire book takes place in the capital city of Yonte Saire … or, at least, almost all of it, except the part that doesn’t, and I really want to spoil the place where Salo ends up for a chapter but I feel like it would be mean. What the book does is crank up the political complexity and gets deeper into the worldbuilding, and you find out quite a lot more about the genuinely refreshing and original math- and high tech-based magic system Rwizi has cooked up here. This book, by the way, does not give one single shit about genre conventions; Rwizi’s gonna put some science fiction in his fantasy and some fantasy in his science fiction and everybody loves a Reese’s so you’re not going to whine about it. Salo grows a lot, both in character and in power, over the course of the book, and … shit, I don’t want to spoil any of this, and there’s not really any point into getting too far into the plot anyway since it’s a second book. Just believe that shit, which was perhaps not previously as real as we thought, gets real, and I caught myself thinking at about the halfway point that there hadn’t been nearly as much action in this book as compared to the first and yeah that was just Rwizi teeing up my emotions.

And then like Jesus holy shit the ending. I have no idea where the hell he’s going with this series, and it’s fantastic.

I loved this book, I love this author, and you need to read Scarlet Odyssey, then read this, and then listen to me and start reading African speculative fiction on the regular, because there’s all kinds of good stuff out there and it needs more exposure.

#Review: SCARLET ODYSSEY, by C.T. Rwizi


I keep almost saying this on the blog, but I don’t think I actually have yet: you need to be reading more African science fiction and fantasy. I don’t know if there’s an actual continental Renaissance going on right now or if it’s just American publishers trying to be more diverse and finally giving these authors a chance or what, but the number of good books I’ve read in the last few years by African or first-generation immigrant authors has been skyrocketing, particularly from Nigerian authors or authors of Nigerian descent, and you need to get in on this. In C.T. Rwizi’s case, he was born in Zimbabwe and currently lives in South Africa, and I’m pretty sure I bought Scarlet Odyssey based on not much more than the author’s name and that absolutely gorgeous cover.

I love it when that works out, and it’s funny that I’m thinking about discovering Fonda Lee’s Jade City much the same way, because I’m pretty sure The Green Bone Saga was the last time I was this jazzed about a new SF/F series. Yes, it’s that good.

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you have probably caught on to the fact that I am a sucker for worldbuilding, and Rwizi’s world is a lush, multicultural, second-world Africa, filled with magic that is in a lot of ways math-based— the way mystics officially become mystics basically requires them to derive a unique mathematical proof called an Axiom that powers and regulates their abilities– and wildlife with robot parts and a ton of overlapping political systems that are at odds with each other, alongside a religious pantheon that is just as multifaceted. Generally with fantasy you either get one or the other; you’re either dealing with kings and emperors or gods and demigods, and this series has both. I want to read a million books set in this world and I want to hear more about every corner of it, especially the bits that exist off the map that the book starts with, which are only hinted at here and there but which seem to have something entirely different going on from the vibe of the rest of the book.

The main character is Musalodi, an eighteen-year-old noble who wants to be a mystic rather than following his brothers into the warrior caste. In his tribe, magic and academics are generally women’s work, and yes I can hear you sighing over there but while this trope has started to get more than a little tiring in general, once Salo gets out of the reach of his people (I’m not going to tell you how or why) his maleness stops being an issue, except for the occasional person who recognizes where he’s from and knows how odd his powers are. Gender-swapped roles is kind of a theme throughout the book, actually; similar things will happen with a couple of different people.

While Salo is definitely the main character, the book employs a third-person rotating narrator style, over maybe eight or ten different characters, a couple of whom will eventually turn out to be the same person. The characters are scattered all over the world and several of them don’t encounter or even know about each other, so it’s likely that there will be some worlds colliding in the future. I don’t want to get too deep into the actual story; this is definitely something that you want to watch unfold on your own without knowing a lot about where it’s going. The short version is that Salo is going to come into his powers, and then get sent on a Quest, capital Q absolutely necessary, by someone who may or may not have his best interests in mind and whose motivations are deliberately kept somewhat unclear.

Oh God, y’all, it’s so damn good. The sequel isn’t due out until March of next year and I want it nowwwww. Go buy this and read it, please; I need somebody to talk to about it.