Circus? Female WOC as main character? Written by an author who is an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker? Sign me up sign me up right now!
Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.
This book far exceeded all of my expectations. I started thinking it was going to be a fairly mundane young adult fantasy novel and by the end I was so invested in basically every character’s storyline, especially our protagonist Sante who is phenomenal and amazing.
The fantasy elements of this book are somewhat confusing, in that there aren’t clear rules set out in the beginning of the novel for how the magic mentioned works, but honestly this didn’t bother me too much in this instance, mainly because Badoe’s prose convinced me that it didn’t matter. How magic works isn’t what’s important, what’s important is the story she is telling and the fate of the characters she is weaving.
I’m not going to go on about how important it is to read books that are by people who are different from you and about characters who are different but in this case I do think it is worth mentioning. I am frequently guilty of reading a lot of books that are written by white people about white people (I could blame the lack of diversity in the publishing world for this but honestly if we’re not supporting diverse authors and buying and promoting their books then we’re equally at fault) and this was such a nice way to diversify my reading. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy you should read this, regardless of who the author is, because it’s an amazing read, but supporting amazing authors who might otherwise not be as supported is sooooo important.
Badoe goes one step further and writes in LGBTQIA+ characters which fills my soul with such amazing joy. Seriously I could froth for hours about how much I enjoyed this book but if I can leave you with one thing before you go off immediately and buy your copy (I mean it. Do it now.) its that this is one of the best pieces of storytelling I have read in a long while. So often we get caught up in the minutiae of fantasy settings that we lose what makes a story amazing.
My rating: 5/5 stars (was it going to be anything less?)
Publication date: 7 September 2017
By the way: I received a digital advanced review copy of A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars from the publisher (Zephyr) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all my opinions are my own and I wouldn’t recommend this if I didn’t think it was worth reading.
Have you also read this? Are you tempted? Chat with me about it in the comments or on twitter (@judithcmoore). Can’t wait!