Following in the footsteps of Tomi Adeyemi, Deborah Falaye, and Namina Forna, Shade Lapite blends danger and court intrigue in Goddess Crown to create a coming-of-age novel set in an entirely Afrocentric fantasy world.
Raised in a forest, Kalothia is tougher than your average teen. But, sequestered inside the beautiful Kingdom of Galla, she doesn’t know much about the outside world – that is, until an assassination attempt on her 16th birthday forces her to flee. This is when she learns a startling truth: everything she’s been told about her background is a lie. Her mother is dead, and her late father is Galla’s murderous king. This means any bloodthirsty lord seeking his throne will have to go through her, the rightful heir. But Kalothia is ready for the fight.
The Game of Thrones–esque political idiosyncrasies and royal scheming pop off the page in all their glory, but this never obscures the more intimate story of a young woman’s loss, search for justice, and personal growth. Kalothia’s strength in the face of danger as she tries to discern who is friend and who is foe, makes her simultaneously relatable and a figure to aspire to. This beautifully coincides with the book’s philosophical engagement with patriarchy and its uplifting of female figures, whether it be Kalothia, the women who raised her, or the Goddess she prays to. The quick pacing and rapid-fire dialogue throws readers into the conflict without wasting time. Rather than resorting to plodding exposition and descriptions, the world-building is woven seamlessly into the narrative.
The world-building itself is a joy for those looking for more fantasy novels based on African cultures. Lapite, a Nigerian who grew up in the U.K., combines her own lived experience and research of Yoruba culture to build her world. Refreshingly, it is a Black story that doesn’t deal primarily with racial oppression, because the book is unconcerned with whiteness. Yoruba mythology and African pre-colonial culture infuse the setting, normalizing an Afrocentric divine pantheon and mythical creatures as Lapite creates a unique world distinct from other Afrocentric YA fantasy novels.
Though Kalothia must contend with the world outside Galla, with the plot moving so quickly and the narrative so action-packed, Goddess Crown only scratches the surface of the wider world, leaving readers hoping there are more stories to come that will allow for a deeper exploration of Kalothia’s world. With her debut, Lapite has put her stamp on the ever-growing and much-needed YA Afrocentric fantasy genre.