The Orishas are the native gods of the Yoruba people who inhabit western Africa. These beings were sent by Olodumare, the supreme creator, to guide all creation, specifically humanity, on how to live successful lives on Àiyé (Earth). Not an easy task, which may help explain why he sent so many.
According to Yoruba tradition, there are 400 + 1 color-coded Orishas, although other sources say that the number is infinite + 1. White Orishas are calm and gentle, and red Orishas are aggressive and short tempered. Previously they had existed peacefully in the spirit world (òrún), but then for some reason they were banished to Lagos, Nigeria. At least that’s what happened in David Mogo, Godhunter, a fast-paced godpunk story that I had a really hard time putting down.
Some Gods Are More Than A Nuisance
“This is going to be a bad job.”
David Mogo is a demigod. Half-human and half-Orisha, he makes his living by hunting the thousands of gods infesting Lagos, and making a nuisance of themselves. No one knows how or why the gods fell to earth, just that they are there and that they’re a problem, which is why they’re willing to pay David Mogo for his help. It’s a living.
Lukmon Ajala is a wizard, and the gangster ruler of the village Agbado. He wants David Mogo to capture for him the Ibeji, twin high gods, and is willing to pay three million naira upon delivery. It’s a lot of money, but also very risky as it will require from him to go up against not one, but two powerful Orishas. What could possibly go wrong?
Going up against the Ibeshi will launch David Mogo on a fast-paced action adventure, which will include, but is not limited to, powerful wizards, godlings, gods, more powerful gods, and his mother. There will be plenty of casual violence and property destruction, David Mogo will eventually discover his destiny, and not everyone will die. Did I mention already that this book was a lot of fun?
Gods Don’t Sleep
“I don’t sleep, of course.”
Sometimes I wish I was a demigod. It would mean I could read these books and write the reviews (and work a full time job and be a full time parent, and keep my house clean) without paying a cost. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, which means I get to be jealous.
I mean being a god hunting demigod does have the downside of making you and your loved ones the target of vengeful deities seeking death and destruction galore (or just to take over the world), but can you imagine how much parties I could have, as a parent of three small children, if I never had to worry about getting up in the morning? Not going to happen so I’ll just settle for losing sleep and still reading lots of books.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun with this book. It’s a first-person narrative that is divided into three parts. The first part tells the story of David Mogo’s mission to capture the Ibeji. The others are spoilers which I’m not going to reveal. Each part can be read as its own self-contained adventure. They all follow a similar pattern, but the stakes are significantly increased the further you progress.
This book mostly stands out for its action. Things happen so fast that they often catch you by surprise, not the action itself, just the timing. It meant I was reacting as the characters reacted with split-second decision making, and having to follow really closely. I did NOT want to miss any details, and this meant I could not put the book down (did already mention losing sleep?)
It’s not just the action though. It’s also the world building. The Yoruba gods and Yoruba magic system are a core part of this story. Thousands of gods fell to earth, and while we don’t meet all of them we do encounter quite a few. In addition to the Ibeji I mentioned earlier, you also have, for example, Sango and Aganju sibling brother gods. There is Olokun, a water god, and at some point trickster gods will be introduced, but they play a very minor role.
David Mogo does a good job of explaining the magic system, which is based on god-essence (everyone has it, but gods have more of it). However, the primary wizard in this book is Papa Udi, David Mogo’s adoptive father. He brews ebo, a potion that enables the demigod’s knives to penetrate spiritual beings. He is also a skilled ritual caster. In one scene he invokes a god into a circle by using an oriki (a true name) sung in a poetic verse that carries the embodiment of one’s past, present and future. It’s fascinating stuff, and probably better than the actual relationship between Papa Udi and David Mogo.
Character relationships are not a strong point in this book. David Mogo has very strong feelings towards his adoptive father, and will do pretty much anything for him. As the story progresses, we learn more about their backstory, including the usual buried secrets from the past which need to be uncovered to advance a repentance arc in the third part. It’s good, but not as strong as the action or the world-building.
The only challenge I really had with this book was the language. David Mogo narrates in American English, but Papa Udi only talks in Nigerian English. Naturally, this means that all dialogues between the two characters are in the latter dialect, and difficult to follow. It was a tradeoff: a little frustration in exchange for a little authenticity, which probably carried more weight with African readers (not me). I still enjoyed the book a lot though, and am looking forward to reading the author’s upcoming trilogy.
There are Advantages to Being Young
The Omer today is courage in eternity, which really works with this book. Our demigod protagonist isn’t eternal. He’s just beginning his career. However, his foes are. The Yoruba gods have been around for a long time. It gives them a distinct power advantage over the relatively younger David Mogo. Being older though also has its disadvantages, such as an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. This real world tension between age and conservatism vs youth and change, often ends up with youth losing. It’s just not a fair power balance.
That’s where bravery (and persistence) can make a difference. As it can help you overcome the obstacles thrown at you by those unwilling or unable to make a change. In Judaism we have a saying “seek and ye shall find”. Don’t give up, don’t despair, keep on trying, and even the strongest oldest and powerful obstacles will eventually be overcome.
I’m on the side of bravery this time. Therefore #bebrave
About The Author
Suyi Davis Okungbowa is a storyteller who writes from Lagos, Nigeria. His stories have been published in Fireside, PodCastle, The Dark, StarShip Sofa, Mothership Zeta, Omenana, and other places. Suyi has worked in engineering and financial audit, and now works in brand marketing, where he gets paid to tell stories. He is also associated editor at Podcastle and a charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society.