By Wole Talabi
Author: Wole Talabi
- ISBN: 9781399615686
- Published: February 2024
- Pages: 294
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 08/02/2024
- Language: English
Most people love a good heist if they are not the ones being robbed. Be it in the movies, a documentary, or even a novel, a heist is all about planning and then it falling apart instantly. You can tell the story of a heist in different ways; do you go deeply into the plan or find out more about the people involved? Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi is about stealing an artifact from the British Museum, but it is so much more than just that.
Shigidi is not the most prestigious of gods, his role is to sneak into a person’s room at night and scare them to death in their nightmares and then take their soul. When he meets Nneoma things change for him. Nneoma is a freelance succubus who does not work within the constraints of the various god factions. When Shigidi and Nneoma work together they make a good team and their latest heist might just set them free from any old obligations they have, and when these obligations are to an antient God, they are worth fulfilling.
Shigidi feels like an effortlessly cool novel about old gods in a new world. Behind the scenes the various gods from the past vie for power and have even set up sprit corporations that house various gods and creatures. At the opening of the book, Shigidi and Nneoma find themselves working outside this structure. This makes them able to work all the sides against one another, but also leaves them unprotected. One of the company bosses is cashing in an old favour; success will give the couple true freedom, failure a fate worse than death.
Although there is a heist element in the book, it is not what it is about. It is a heist in the same way that Out of Sight is a crime movie. This is a book about the characters, their past and their relationship. The book jumps from the moments after the heist, to before it and into the deep past of the characters. In the case of Nneoma, we go back hundreds of years. This develops the characters but also helps to introduce some of the people who are going to aid in the heist. Nneoma has some old favours that she needs returning.
The most powerful relationship in the book is between Shigidi and Nneoma. He is willing to give anything to her, but Nneoma has seen what happens to succubus who falls in love. Theirs is a complex relationship, not just because they are on the wrong side of the law and have enemies in every spirit company, but because they are gods and monsters. There are added complexities, Nneoma is drawn to seducing others and stealing their souls. This makes their relationship fractious, but also sparky. The two of them really hold the book together and their feelings for one another play a pivotal role.
This is a good slice of contemporary urban fantasy with an intriguing set of characters and world building. The relationships are central to the book and a little heavy for my tastes. I would have liked to have learned more about the politics and manoeuvrings required to be a successful god in the modern world. The book does have a heist element and action scenes, but at its heart this is a book for readers who like a strong relationship led story.
Written on 8th February 2024 by Sam Tyler .