cover image The Lies of the Ajungo

The Lies of the Ajungo

Moses Ose Utomi. Tordotcom, $19.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-250-84906-9

Utomi perfectly blends fantasy and fable in his mesmerizing debut novella. In the vast Forever Desert lies the City of Lies, a town with no water. To survive, the city struck a deal with the fierce Ajungo Empire, trading the severed tongues of all citizens aged 13 and older for water. Tutu is days away from his 13th birthday when his mother falls gravely ill from dehydration. Desperate to save her, Tutu asks the city’s leader, Oba Ijefi, permission to go search the desert for water. Along the way, he befriends fellow travelers from other cities where lives have also been destroyed by the Ajungo demanding various body parts. All decide to band together to seek out the Ajungo and put a stop to their endless cycles of greed—a quest that leads them to a deadly secret that will change the lives of Tutu and his people forever. Utomi does a fantastic job pacing Tutu’s coming-of-age as his experiences in the desert challenge his ingrained beliefs. The simple yet effective plot draws readers into a harsh and beautiful world where nothing is as it seems. Fantasy fans will want to keep an eye on this up-and-coming author. (Mar.)