The Lies of the Ajungo (Forever Desert #1) by Moses Ose Utomi
Published by Tordotcom
Adult Epic Fantasy
Release Date : March 21st 2023
They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies?
In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city. Thus begins Tutu’s quest for the salvation of his mother, his city, and himself.
There are no heroes in the City of Lies.
The Lies of the Ajungo is a solid African adult fantasy debut that will be your newest favourite book by up-and-coming author Moses Ose Utomi.
The Lies of the Ajungo is the adult fantasy debut and first instalment to the Forever Desert trilogy by up and coming author Moses Ose Utomi. This debut absolutely stunned me when I finished reading The Lies of the Ajungo. I don’t know how I didn’t notice this book while requesting for ARCs. Even though I am late, I am happy that I get to read it as it was recently on March 21st 2023. Thank you to the trusted friends that have recommended this book, because of you guys I picked this book up.
The Lies of the Ajungo is a story set in a dried up city in the Forever Desert suffering from a terrible drought that has cost the lives of many of its citizens. When the saviours of the city, the Ajungo, a mysterious group of people from a far away empire offered a bargain in exchange for water. The Oba, leader of the city, accepted the offer as their citizens sacrificed a piece of them as offering for water. But the water didn’t last for long because what was given by the Ajungo wasn’t enough to quench the thirst of the whole city. The Oba, desperate to save the people, offered a prize for a hero who is brave enough to explore the Forever Desert in search of water. Many have tried and many didn’t survive, until Tutu.
THERE ARE NO FRIENDS beyond the City of Lies.
Utomi crafts an epic character driven story that feels like a breath of fresh air. Tutu’s quest to find water for the city and save his mother is impeccably well written from start to end. The absolute finesse in Utomi’s writing brought this desert fantasy to life as we follow Tutu’s journey. The descriptions of places are vivid and detailed conveying the dire situation that has befallen this city.
What made this story stand out is the explosive action scenes. The way Utomi writes combat is reminiscent of The Burning series by Evan Winter and The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. The scenes are brutal and powerful on page. Utomi made the scenes feel realistic and balanced, noting the lack of experience in Tutu, which I appreciated. Another component of the combat scenes is the magic. The magic seals the appeal of the combat with its unique technicalities that are simple to understand and easy to integrate into this novella. It is also a magic system that can be expanded in future sequels teasing readers with just enough glimpse of the power.
Tutu’s character development made sense even though the page count of this book, for some readers, might not be enough to develop him fully as a character. Tutu’s development is imperfect yet satisfying when reaching the end of the book. It is the closure that is fit for Tutu’s character considering the plot of the story and the way that his story is developed by Utomi. In many ways this story is bittersweet in delivering a justified epic fantasy story.
Utomi weaves the plot between Tutu and the other (and maybe future) characters in the series masterfully. The relationship between Tutu and the other characters, especially the three women, had depth even when the scenes are short. The incorporation of the Tutu’s mother in his character is also done wonderfully as it serves as a reminder of Tutu’s young age and love for his mother. The way Utomi introduced the three women (Asilah, Funme, Lami) and the blind man by building their characters and developing future plot into the story is exciting to read. It creates anticipation for future sequels and sets up a good base for readers to hold on to until the release.
You must learn. Only by learning can you free us.
Final thoughts, The Lies of the Ajungo is a solid debut book that has all the elements of a good fantasy quest story. As a reader, I could see no fault in the story and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the story the whole time I was reading it. Utomi is an author that everyone needs to keep an eye on because of how strong The Lies of the Ajungo is. I will definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a quick, easy, and fantastic African inspired story. Definitely pick this book up if you liked The Burning series by Evan Winter and The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. Because I am 100% sure you will enjoy The Lies of the Ajungo if you enjoyed the former.
About the Author
Moses Ose Utomi wrote his first book when he was 5. It was a book about warrior bunnies from Mars, and the only copy is owned by his mother.
Since then, he has gone on to write many more, slightly better stories. He primarily writes fantasy “but with the plot and pacing of a psychological thriller” and his fiction often grows out of the West African culture and mythology he was raised in as a Nigerian American.
He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing as well as a Certificate in Book Publishing, and he has short fiction in various publications. Most notably, he is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Daughters of Oduma and the adult fantasy novella trilogy that begins with The Lies of the Ajungo.
He is also a martial arts, karaoke, and obscure sports addict.