Are you craving an action packed, magic filled, fantasy novel, with a cliffhanger ending? Then Tochi Onyebuchi’s Beasts Made of Night is meant for you. The teenage main character, Taj, is an aki. All aki are required to ‘eat’ other people's sins. To eat a sin beast, an aki must first battle it to death. This is an extremely dangerous and life threatening job, because the sin beasts are very difficult to defeat and can easily destroy an aki. Once the sin beast is killed, it dissolves into an inky, black substance. The aki are forced to swallow this revolting liquid. After that happens, a tattoo of the sin beast is branded into the aki’s skin. They will also feel the guilt of the bad deed that is not theirs. Once an aki eats too many sins, he or she will die.
On top of feeling the burden of remorse, the aki are unjustly treated like second-class citizens. This reminds me of some of the commonly overlooked, but important jobs in today’s world, such as migrant farm workers, who work on plantations, for long hours and low pay. They work hard, but are taken advantage of, because of their need for a job.
As the book progresses, Taj and the princess of the royal family (the Kayas) fall in love. Will they stay a couple? He and his best friend Bo are struggling to stay alive. To survive they must abide by the rules, and destroy sin beasts; but still not eat too many sins, to prevent themselves from dying. Will their friendship be torn apart by envy and different political views?
I can relate to Taj and Bo’s problem about being friends with someone, but having different political perspectives, because I have some friends who don’t have the same opinions on what the United States government is doing wrong that I do. The difference is that I am not living in a place where my views on politics can affect whether I live or die. If my friends and I disagree on a political issue, we share our points of view, debate them, then move on, but in Taj’s world the political system is such dire situation that views affect whom he trusts, deeply.
Throughout the book, Taj meets people who want to help him. Do they truly want to change the lives of aki in a positive way? Taj and a few supporters of aki rights meet in secret. Will they ever be discovered? While thinking about the secretive meeting that he attends, I was reminded of how in some countries in the world, such as Russia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, and North Korea, if people publicly criticize the government, he or she faces the consequence of being thrown in prison without a fair trial.
In the last few chapters of the novel there is a huge fight scene involving the whole town of Kos (the village that Taj lives in). One of the other lead characters who Taj assumes to be on his side, unleashes a brutal plan to destroy Kos, to get want they want: Aki to be treated equally to non-Akis. Demolishing Kos would mean killing majority of the population, and only sparing a few lives, and wrecking the homes and shops of the townsfolk. Is Taj willing to do this, or does he want to change Kos a different way? If he doesn’t want to abide by the current plan, will he die?
I would recommend this book to middle grade readers (ages 10 to 14).
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi. Razorbill, 2017. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
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