[REVIEW] The Gatekeeper’s Staff(TJ Young And The Orishas Book 1), by Antoine Bandele

A black and white ebook standing on a cement block, underneath a halo-shaped fluorescent light.

(Find it HERE.)

I LOVED THIS. Before I get into the review, let me just say–if you know a pre-teen boy who loves magic and adventure, get him this book. If he’s Black, get him two copies. This is the first book I’ve read in 2021 that made me want to clap and cheer and read portions of it out loud to other people and I can’t recommend it highly enough. ⠀⠀

That said, this owes a LOT to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Bandele wears these influences proudly on his sleeve but adds enough freshness in the form of kid-fantasy-friendly Yoruba spirituality references and heaps of global Black culture moments that I didn’t mind all of the obvious similarities.⠀⠀

So, here’s the story: 14-year old TJ Young lives in LA with his dad (a regular brotha from the hood) and his mom (a Nigerian immigrant & the most powerful Yoruba water sorceress of modern times). His brother Tunde and sister Dayo are both supernaturally talented but TJ seems to take after his dad as one of the ‘clouded’–practically unmagical.⠀ ⠀

Then Dayo dies in a mysterious accident while working in Nigeria and things begin to change for TJ, culminating in a summer trip to Camp Olosa, a place for troubled Yoruba spellcasters deep in the Louisiana bayou. With the help of his new friends — country boy Josh, and New York Afro-Latina Manny — TJ finds himself on a mission that brings him face to face with the gods themselves. ⠀⠀

Did I already say I loved this? Because I did. I loved the storyline and all the ways it plays with the now-familiar “magic school” tropes. I loved how the story featured Black people and cultures from all over the diaspora, connected by very tangible West African history and spirituality. I loved the portrayal of the Orisha, Yoruba spiritual beings with powerful abilities but very human-like foibles. I loved TJ, a genuinely kind, caring kid with close connections to his family. I even loved that the cafeteria at Camp Olosa serves cornbread and gumbo.⠀ But most of all I loved that this was fun, culturally layered, and full of adventure. I had a blast reading this and I want the second book NOW (but alas, we’ll have to wait…this one won’t even be officially released until Juneteenth).⠀⠀

5 stars and a little bit of my Ashe to The Gatekeeper’s Staff. ⠀⠀

Kind thanks to Antoine Bandele for an advance ARC of this. *crackhead scratch* So, uh, when can I get the next installment? You got anymore of them plot twists?

(Beautiful people, this is the first book of 2021 that I can 100% unreservedly recommend buying. If you want to do that,it’s here, and there’s plenty more diverse reads for diverse readers in the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Just know that if you click and purchase anything from this site, a commission will be earned. It helps keep the site clean and lit.)

5 thoughts on “[REVIEW] The Gatekeeper’s Staff(TJ Young And The Orishas Book 1), by Antoine Bandele

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