NASOMI’S QUEST by Enock I. Simbaya

Nasomi’s Quest isn’t the most streamlined story—it’s a patchwork of threads coming together to create something that’s a telltale sign of a raw but rough novel. But the fabric and construction isn’t difficult to look at. By celebrating family values and enduring love, while humanizing the layered envy and bitterness that is inside us all when things don’t go our way, it becomes easier to forgive some of its structural shortcomings. However, it’s not quite good enough for complete absolving.

Nasomi's Quest: Legends of Ao #1
Title: Nasomi's Quest: Legends of Ao #1
Published: 06/01/2020
Page Count: 298
ISBN13: 978-1734627909
A love story. An ordinary girl and a tribal prince fall in love. Loving her costs him everything. Loving him earns her a vengeful nemesis. An adventure story. Witches, magic, secrets, dangerous things to come. He's taken to the edge of the world. Grappling an unwanted gift, she follows. A transformation story. All she wants is to be an ordinary woman, but she may have to become something more.

Nasomi’s Quest follows Nasomi, a seemingly ordinary girl from a small village who enters a relationship with a prince named Tambo. Unfortunately, Tambo is already engaged to a high-class fiance, and his family don’t look kindly on him changing his mind to marry a person of a lower class. That unkindness is miniscule in comparison to Tambo’s fiancé, Reema, who executes devious tactics to keep Tambo for herself—sacrificing just about everything she has in a pursuit to keep her love and dignity. Without spoiling too much, Reema’s treachery prompts Nasomi to go on a grand quest, discovering the magic inside herself, as she leaves her family behind, to resolve the conflict, and attain Tambo’s love, in hopes to be free from chaotic adversaries against their pairing.

The quest moves at a great pace, jumping from one interesting, storied locale to the next, while facing conflicts, both interpersonal and physical, along the way. Nasomi’s companions, which she accrues as she goes forward, become more fully formed as she braves on past increasing danger. Unfortunately, this quest doesn’t begin until almost the halfway mark. The lengthy first part sets up the relationship between Nasomi and Tambo, showcases Tambo’s families’ disapproval, and has Nasomi engaged in mundane activities.

These are all necessary to move the story forward–the problem is that the author spends too much time focusing on certain aspects of the story, and not enough time on others. Some unimportant characters are overdeveloped, while especially important characters aren’t as layered as they should be. The mundaneness of Nasomi’s life is spotlit and worded in great detail, while some of her heroic and action-packed pursuits are glossed over. It’s a patchwork, with some fabric that is stunning, while others that make you scratch your head and wonder why it’s part of the piece.

Luckily, once the setup is complete, and the plot goes into high gear, this patchwork becomes smoother. It becomes a rich tapestry. The author’s strengths in Nasomi’s Quest is less on Nasomi and more on the quest. Some of the tribulations Nasomi goes through is packed with stunning imagery and imagination. It’s pacey, exciting, and potent, despite its predictability and occasional wooden dialogue.

Nasomi inhabits a world free of colonialism and blatant racism. Not every characters’ skin color is detailed, but they’re at least largely all black. For decades, fantasy has been seen as escapism, where people can sink into a white, medieval-European-inspired location, where modern sociopolitical issues are left at the door. But that story isn’t escapist for an important, massive group of people. Nasomi Quest is that sort of escapism for Black readers, in which Black characters engage in adventurous activities against monsters and magic, in a world where the spectre of reality is eschewed, and the reader can live in a world preferable to their own. It’s a fantastical utopia for the modern age.

In a world filled with grimdark fantasy, it’s refreshing to see a novel as palatable as Nasomi’s Quest. It’s filled with kind-hearted relationships and sympathetic villains, while focusing more on the grandeur of a journey and the impact of romance, rather than edginess and horrific violence. It’s just a slight disappointment that the first segment needed to be pared down quite a bit more. Some readers might become impatient upon reading the first segment, eager for the novel to fulfill on its promise of a quest. But those readers who continue on, will be rewarded with a story that might not be revolutionary, but full of passion – from the passion of the characters’ adoration of each other, to believably humanizing envy – and ultimately bear witness to the rewards we can reap when we strive above all odds to get what we want. If readers strive past the first part of the story, they will get what they want, too.

3.5Overall Score

Nasomi's Quest: Legends of Ao #1

Nasomi’s Quest isn’t the most streamlined story—it’s a patchwork of threads coming together to create something that’s a telltale sign of a raw but rough novel. But the fabric and construction ...

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Pacing
  • Blackness Present
Sean Dowie is freshly graduated from university, with a Screenwriting degree, currently living in Toronto, Canada. He comes from a family of mixed race (part black, part white) and mixed religion (Jewish/Christian). The perks of this when he was a child is that he got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, getting double the presents. While FIYAH is his first venue to publish professional reviews, he has been writing reviews for films, books, and TV shows for school and as a hobby for many years. He’s a huge fan of stories that are achingly raw and push the envelope of what a narrative is capable of. Some of his favourite authors are Ian Muneshwar, Tade Thompson, Kathleen Kayembe, and Cadwell Turnbull. When he’s not voraciously reading anything he can get his surprisingly dainty hands on, he can be found performing stand-up comedy, developing TV and film projects that he can’t talk about yet, and writing poetry that he’s debating submitting to literary magazines.
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