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Works by Tobi Ogundiran

Associated Works

Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction (2022) — Contributor — 122 copies
The Book of Witches: An Anthology (2023) — Contributor — 33 copies
The Year's Best Fantasy: Volume One (2022) — Contributor — 8 copies
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #282 — Contributor — 2 copies


Common Knowledge




"How do stories begin? How do they endure? An idea, a word, repeated over and over, passed from mother to daughter, from father to son, from stranger to stranger until it comes alive."

Do you like dark magical realism with horror elements? Or does the idea appeal to you? If so, I can definitely recommend that you take a look at this collection. While there is an over-arching theme of darkness and creepiness, there is a large variety in the kinds of stories being told and I'm sure that there is at least one that would resonate with any reader. I loved the clear influences of Nigerian folk lore in many of the stories - it definitely adds an additional layer on uniqueness in a world where most books seem to be inspired by western mythology, folk lore and culture. So this a definitely a strong option if you are looking for something different from all the popular mainstream books plot wise.

As is the case with any short story collection, I enjoyed some stories more and others less. I did , however, love the author's writing style so those that fell somewhere in the middle were still enjoyable reads. Enjoyable seems like an odd word choice given the contents of these stories ( I mean, is it really the right word for when you are reading about death and creatures tearing apart in gruesome ways?). My favourite was almost definitely "The Lady of the Yellow-Painted Library" (a warning to those who don't return library books), followed by "Midnight in Moscow" (a story about living in a creepy apartment with concerning things happening while he lives there).

This is a spectacular magical realism/horror collection and it definitely creeped me out more than once. So be prepared for horrifying an unexpected twists before you dive in!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

I'm including a short description/thought abut each story in the spoiler below if you are interested in what the collection actually contains.

I apologise for any typos. I wrote these notes on my phone as I finished each story.

The story of a wooden man who grew from the boy a man made for his wife since they couldn't have children. It has a melancholy mood and beautiful writing about love and loss.

Mr Badmus recieved an ominous note about an overdue library book, threatening him with dire consequences if he doesn't return it. When he tries to tell the librarian he's lost it and tries to pay for it, she refuses and insists it must be returned. He leaves the city and doesn't think much more of it. Until he finds an even more threatening note, and eventually a creepy librarian and her library following his every move and threatening punishment when he returns the book, and worse if he doesn't.

This was a creepy story. And I loved it! It's definitely going to be hard to top. I definitely think the author's strengths shine through immensely in this one and I enjoyed it more than the previous one (it was good, but this was better!)

A man receives a large jackal head with a note to put it on. While he is initially concerned about what people will think, no one seems to notice. He starts to find comfort in it and it becomes more difficult to take off as time goes on.

This was an interesting story. I enjoyed the exploration of who our true selves are. As with the previous stories, there was definitely a bit of a dark and creepy undercurrent!.

The story of a stowaway on a ship with a skeleton crew. Whole the strange happenings were interesting, I enjoyed this story less than the previous ones. There was nothing wrong with it, exactly, but there will always be those stories you enjoy more and those you enjoy less in collections.

A spirit child awakes feverishly on the top of a mountain. This is the story of the internal fight for her body. The characters in this one were intriguing in a dark and disturbing way. Rewa was somewhat terrifying and the end was a whole lot of oh no! You should definitely mentally prepare yourself for darkness before you read this one.

While it maybe started off a bit slow, this is definitely a memorable story. It definitely got more interesting and surprising towards the end. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the last chapters as much as I did when I started the book. By this point I already kind of knew to expect a dark and mysterious twist, but I was still surprised by where it went.

An artist goes to an old manor house to kill himself. But he wants to make some last paintings first. There he meets a beautiful and intriguing young woman who he has a strong desire to paint.

As with most of these stories, this one starts off seemingly normally. But things quickly become a little uneasy and soon weird and creepy. While this one probably isn't the most unique work in the collection, it is beautifully written and highly enjoyable. Especially when the creepy elements start sneaking in.

A letter to a disemboweled monarch. With how short this one is, I don't really have much more to say.

The story of a woman, who is trying to get her dream of being a jazz singer back on track after an unplanned pregnancy and of her son, who is raised by his grandmother and feels alone in the world.

I definitely felt for the boy. He clearly just wants a relationship with his mother, but she gives me the sense that he wasn't exactly wanted. I understand that loneliness of not really belonging anywhere. I loved the inclusion of the storyteller and how his story was woven into their lives.

The story of the boys of a fishing village. The gods are upset after one of them steals treasure and decide to retaliate.

I felt like I connected less with the characters in this one than the others and I suspect it impacted my enjoyment. The ending was also rather sudden. Not bad, but not one of my favourites either.

The story of the downfall of a witch king. As always it gets surprisingly dark and somewhat gruesome towards the end!

Ashâke has been waiting for years for the gods to talk to her so that she can become a priest and enter the inner sanctum and she's getting tired of waiting. She sneaks out to relax in the river, where the author paints a rather idyllic scene. On her way back to the temple, she finds a group of people making music and dancing and they change her life forever.

This story is an interesting exploration of faith, although I am not religious myself. I would have loved to have gotten to see a bit more of the temple, although at the same time I didn't mind the vagueness - it's not really important to the story.

Dele sees a mysterious figure when he goes to collect water one misty morning. His father is horrified and warns him of the darkness in their world and others. This is a chilling tale of the things that hide in the shadows. Those things that you aren't quite sure are there until it's too late.

This story about losing track of time and reality in a forest reminded me a bit of the first story in the collection. It's probably got something to do with all the wood imagery coupled with themes of love and family since the events are rather different. I can only imagine Iná's horror and terror during her experiences!

This story follows our narrator, Midnight, who has fled to Russia from Nigeria. He moves into a creepy apartment with several of your typical horror story features, such as an unpleasant landlady and that one obligatory flickering lightbulb in the otherwise dark passage. After he wakes up in the cold and dark, he knocks on his neighbour's door, hoping for some warmth or at the very least some matches. Things quickly start getting increasingly ominous after this interaction, because sometimes something that seems like a place where a horror story may occur is just the sceme of a horror.

This book reminds me a bit of The Landlady by Roald Dahl, although it has been several years since I've read that book. It has a similar dark human/helplessness horror aspect to it. You also learn just how sinister the whole thing is as the story progresses (although this place didn't feel particularly sweet and innocent at the start). It also gave me massive The Magnus Archives vibes in terms of what happened. Would definitely recommend this story if you enjoyed either of thse.

After his brother disappears, our narrator goes to his house to try find him. Instead he finds videos of their childhood and an odd daycare. This one spoke to me less than some of the other stories but I'm sure others will love it!

A man goes in search for medicine for his daughter. I think this is my least favourite work in the collection. It just didn't hit me as much as the others. I'm sure it will have a stronger impact on others, however. Especially parents

A story if a mother of goats. This one has some rather disturbing imagery. It is a Lovecraftian take on the author's own experiences with goats which makes it all the more horrifying. And yes. I agree. Goats are very strange creatures and I could definitely see some deciding to act this way out of spite (if they had supernatural abilities of course - or maybe they do and re just hiding it for now?
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TheAceOfPages | 1 other review | Aug 24, 2023 |
I had fun with this collection, even when some stories were a little more "downtime-y" for me. My especial favorites: "The Many Lives of an Abiku", "Isn't Your Daughter Such a Doll", "Guardian of the Gods", "Midnight in Moscow", and "The Goatkeeper's Harvest". There's about 18 stories in this collection, so that's not too bad, especially since this collection, for me anyway, gets some automatic cool points just for being different: I haven't read any (contemporary) folk/epic tales of Nigeria. It creates some level of surreal also to see how "fictive" folk tales of the past influence the "real" reality of the present. Cultures with storytelling backgrounds are pretty cool. I'm also a pretty big fan of Undertow Publications. 😎

Oh, and thanks for the first read Edelweiss!
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The_Bubblegum_Review | 1 other review | Jun 15, 2023 |
Some very interesting pieces and some not so interesting. My personal favourites in this anthology are Red_Bati, but Dilman Dia, which is an exciting and well-written story of an AI; and Paul Kinkaid's extract on Christopher Priest. Worth a read.
elahrairah | May 1, 2021 |


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½ 3.6