Raybearer Blog Tour: Interview with Jordan Ifueko+ ARC Review

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Hello everyone!

Today, I’m so excited to interview the author of one of my favourite books of this year, Jordan Ifueko, who is this the author of the African inspired YA fantasy, Raybearer; and also to share my review of her brilliant debut.  

This interview is done in collaboration with Hear Our Voice Book Tours. You can check out the other posts on the tour here .

Q: Hello, Jordan! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Before I go on with the interview, congratulations on your debut Raybearer, I’m so excited to read your book. So, can you tell us a little about you and your book?

A: Thanks for having me!

I’m a Nigerian American Anxious Afro Dream Girl. I write about magic Black girls who aren’t magic all the time, because sometimes they need a vacation.

The elevator pitch for my debut novel, RAYBEARER:

In a global empire, a love-starved prodigy is coerced by her mother to join a divine crown prince’s council. Her mission? Earn his trust. Swear her love. And to her horror…kill him.

Q:  I believe in starting an interview with something light to ease any seriousness and this particular question started as a joke on Twitter, but I love it still. What’s your favourite Winne the Pooh character

A: You know what? Even as a kid, I had a deep abiding sympathy with Rabbit. I knew I was supposed to laugh at him for being crabby, but I never could. Of course he’s grumpy! People keep disturbing his nice sensible gardens! He’s the only adult in the room!

Q: It’s known that I have a bias to African inspired fantasies being an African myself and I’m always curious and pleased when I read one by a Black author and my question now is this; what was your biggest inspiration to write Raybearer?

A: Storytelling in the tradition of griots, who are oral historians/musicians in West African culture, feature prominently in RAYBEARER, albeit with a fantasy twist. I grew up with a lot of folktales from my parents, like those of Anansi the Spider. However, I’m a blend of many cultures. Nigeria was a British colony until the 1960s, so British literature and fairytales are a major influence of mine as well.

I started writing RAYBEARER 13ish years ago, when I was 13! RAYBEARER features a group of children who are handpicked to be raised in isolation with the future emperor, and groomed to someday rule the empire of Aritsar. At the time, I was attending a tiny school of close-knit kids–my graduating class was only 17 people. We took ourselves extremely seriously, so it wasn’t hard to imagine we would someday rule the world, ha

RAYBEARER also deals with the trauma we inherit from our ancestors, and so the book explores some difficult familial relationships as well.

Q: A lot of authors from marginalised communities write things they wish or want to read into their books. Did you do this in Raybearer, and what are these themes/elements/tropes?

A: I wrote what I wanted to read as a young teen Black girl. One thing I often grew up reading in Eurocentric fantasy are female characters that are treated with reverence, protected physically, and waited on by servants. I remember distinctly realizing that Black women and girls are rarely treated this way in fiction (and of course, rarely ever in real life). That’s why Tarisai, RAYBEARER’s protagonist, is given a lot of societal privilege from the get-go– I was tired about stories about Black girls treated roughly by their environments.

Q: Writing is like any other creative process, writers have their favourite and least favourite parts of their works. What were your favourite parts to write?

A: I love writing descriptions of places, food, and clothing. I am a plantain enthusiast and own an embarrassing amount of fabric, but I can’t stop buying it–there’s something so sensual about beautifully woven textiles, especially West African ones.

Q: Were there any parts of the book that didn’t quite make it to the final stage and how did you feel to let those parts go?

A: Many, many interactions between Tarisai and her council family ended up being cut, because they didn’t move the plot forward in a significant way. I still miss those parts, because teen me would have loved to live in an Afrocentric castle with my best friends!

Q: To close this interview, I’ll be asking you the same question I ask every author I interview. If you could pitch your book in 7 words, what will they be?

A: Bonds. Purpose. Empire. Sacrifice. Dynasties. Afros. Longing.

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

BLURB

The epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir

Nothing is more important than loyalty.

But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

|CW: parental neglect, manipulation, off page rape, off page sex scenes (consensual), on page sex scene (consensual), misogyny, regicide, fire, child abuse, domestic abuse, attempted murder, death, fascism, colonisation, enslavement|

Black, POC (several races), anxiety, PTSD

5 full stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I was provided with this advanced review copy by Hear Our Voices Book Tours and Amulet Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A lush fantasy that explores so many themes and complexities, Raybearer is a brilliant debut.

Raybearer is a beautiful West African inspired fantasy. Set in the fictional world of Aritsar, almost completely by a singular and ancient empire, it follows love and touch starved Tarisai who befriends the young prince and joins his council while under a compulsion to kill him when he loves her the most.

Raybearer takes place over a somewhat broad timeline, covering parts of Tarisai’s childhood and spanning into her adulthood.

One thing I adored about Raybearer is its application of themes and tropes. Raybearer contains a multitude of themes and tropes, many native to YA fantasy but the application of these is just simply brilliant. It takes all these tropes, some overused and overdone, some not overdone but ever present, and some new and dream-like especially for Black folks and weaves them so perfectly and makes the old seem new, and the new magical. Tropes and themes, I’ve always wished to see Black characters and POC in, are just here in the book and wonderfully done too. Themes and tropes Black people and POC have never had the chance to see ourselves in, characters we haven’t had the chance to be. Black royalty and Black people being loved. Soft Black boys and boys of colour. Found family and close friendships. Seeing all this left me feeling full.

I cannot talk about the things I loved about this book without mentioning the amazing world building. Aritsar, the world Raybearer is set in, is as solid as any world I’ve ever read in a book. With different cultures, most based on real life cultures and regions, magic system, lore and its complex politics. But I must say my favourite thing about the world is the infusion of West African cultures, most noticeably Yoruba culture. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing my culture in books and Raybearer is one of the books that incorporates it so well. The names,the food, the dresses, the naming and belief about certain landscapes and some of the myths have roots in these cultures . Make no mistake, the world building of  Raybearer is its own, but these little additions were just everything to me.

The writing in Raybearer was also as good. You know those books that have wonderful concepts and world building,but lack execution? That’s not Raybearer.

The writing is atmospheric and engages all your senses. I loved Jordan Ifueko’s writing. It was clear and easy to follow, while also magical. You feel every characters feels and its just amazing. The pacing was also great. The book started off slowly, building the background and the grew faster as it went on. The transition in the pace was smooth and nice. 

A book about finding self, the characters in Raybearer were amazing

 

The brilliant plot, world building and writing apart, I think the characters were my favourite thing about this book.

The characters in Raybearer and their relationships are complex. The characters with their flaws and faults; their inspirations and complexities. And the relationships equally as complex. Not quite as simple, not quite definable. Some sweet and soothing like the relationship of the council siblings. Some hard and so damn complicated, like the relationship between Tarisai and The Lady, her mother, and the relationship between The Lady and the world that made her as she is.

My favourite characters are pretty easy to guess, at least some of them are. Tarisai and her council siblings, especially Dayo, Kirah and Sanjeet. And some are unexpected especially if you’re just starting the book; The Lady, a truly complex character, Woo In, Mbali and Ye Eun.

The character development and arcs were amazing too. For Tarisai, it was learning about herself. About her dreams, her wants, her purpose, her belly song. For The Lady, we see how she became as she is. The Lady is one of the best characters in this book. She is the perfect anti-hero. Her character is so layered. It’s hard to hate her, it’s impossible to forgive her actions, but you can understand her. I still can’t believe she made me cry, but she is the character. 

Another character central character who deserves another mention is Ẹkundayọ (yes, i will always be too extra 😌✨. and the only reason the name isn’t fully extra is because i suck at intonation) Kunleo. Dayo is such a sweet and gentle character. He’s the definition of baby. I just want to pick him up and put him in my pocket along with Sanjeet who is also as soft and my child, Tarisai. I loved his character so much, the softness in him that Black boys in fiction aren’t allowed to have. His love for his council siblings and his understanding for Tarisai. He’s honestly one of the purest Black boys I’ve ever read and the fact that he’s also biromantic and asexual made my heart squeal because of representation!

Raybearer is a story about self discovery and agency, about justice and setting the scales right, about loyalty and love.

I feel like I’ve rambled all too much about this book, but I can’t end it yet without mentioning the core themes here. Raybearer is a compelling story about justice, the length one is willing to go to get it and how they extract it. It’s about birthright, power, purpose, loyalty and love. In my placeholder review on Goodreads, I mentioned comparing Raybearer to my other favourite YA fantasy of this year and realising they aren’t the same. I’ll repeat what I said that Raybearer is like homecoming. It’s that book I didn’t know I needed or I knew. It’s like home — achingly familiar, magical, warming and wonderful. Like a hug. 

A million times recommended. Wake me up when the sequel is out because I don’t know how to exist anymore.

Links:

Indiebound | Target | Barnes & Noble | Powells | Amazon | Waterstones | AUDIOBOOK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Ifueko is a Nigerian-American author of Young Adult fiction. She stans revolutionary girls and 4C curls. RAYBEARER is her debut novel.

GoodreadsTwitterInstagram | Website


Thank you again to Jordan Ifueko for taking out some of her time to chat with me and to HOV Book Tours for this opportunity. I hope y’all buy and love this book because it has all of my heart.

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16 thoughts on “Raybearer Blog Tour: Interview with Jordan Ifueko+ ARC Review

  1. Enjoyed the interview and review. This book sounds wonderful. I’ve heard nothing but good things. Excited for my library to get a copy. I’m so excited to learn about Artisar since almost every single review has mentioned the impeccable worldbuilding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you! aritsar is one of my favourite fictional world, its just simply amazing. i hope you enjoy reading it!

      Like

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