Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Mage of Fools by Eugen Bacon. Thank you to Meerkat Press for my spot. Read on for more info and my review!
MAGE OF FOOLS by Eugen Bacon
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2022
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / Dystopian / Afrofuturist
BOOK PAGE: Mage of Fools – Meerkat Press
In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution.
Mafinga’s malevolent king dislikes books and, together with his sorcerer Atari, has collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for possessing the machine and its forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen who claims Jasmin’s children as her own. Jasmin is powerless—until she discovers secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.
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I’m a big fan of Eugen Bacon, so when Mage of Fools showed up in my inbox, going on tour, I hoped on the opportunity to read it. The writing is absolutely poetic. It’s unique and unlike anything else I’ve read. I am in awe with the way this was written and I was sad when it ended!
This story blends together many genres to create a unique plot and scenery. As I stated, the poetic nature of the prose already made Mage of Fools unique, but the plotline adds to that uniqueness. What really drew me into this story was the fact that it didn’t feel like the same dystopian plot done again.
I could go on and on with this review but I think the key takeaway is that Mage of Fools is absolutely incredible and blew me away. I highly, highly recommend giving this a read. I knew it was going to be five stars from almost the beginning. Don’t miss this one!
Thank you to Meerkat Press for the free review copy of this book. All opinions are my own and unbiased.
“Siyent yight,” says two-year-old Mia. Her owl eyes—evolved to navigate darkness—gaze into Jasmin’s. But they are eyes that are also glows: they not only see but soak light to illuminate her world.
Jasmin does not speak. She’s unpacking the reality of what’s just happened. She is overwhelmed by an emotion that’s not yet rage. Her ears are ringing, a child’s sound toy, but there are no more toys in Mafinga. The country’s reality is cold, gray. Its wind vibrates with the dirge of a better yesterday. It’s a world gone dumb—must all be broken? The bones of the ancestors pop with metamorphic hymns of water that is ruler and land that is slave, as people degenerate into crustaceans.
“Siyent yight, Mamm,” says Mia again.
Jasmin’s fingers rest on Mia’s twin cornrows that end in pigtails.
“Yes. The silent lights.”
Jasmin is taken aback. She never imagined Mia understood.
“The sirens are coming,” says Omar in his grown-up voice. Even at four, he hasn’t outgrown the burst of curls on his head. His pale chocolate skin is still baby soft.
“Soon,” says Jasmin. “You know what it means.”
She glances at the children still hugged to her hips. They too are readers, partaking of the story machine, they just don’t know it yet. Each time she narrates from the device—
She closes her eyes, unwilling to fathom how much she has endangered them with her oral tales.
“I bwashed my teeff.”
“Good, Mia. Now you, Omar. Make it happen.”
He peels himself from gazing at the world out there.
Mia stays. Her eyes seek assurance. “I good, Mamm, aight?”
“You’re always good, dear goatling.”
The children know about goats. The goats from the stories Jasmin tells them. Tales of animals so calm, you think they are stupid, but their working minds sharpen with each bleat. Despite their odd pupil shape, how unsettling to a human eye, goats are intelligent beneath the horn.
Jasmin watches as Omar navigates the space between the unpartitioned living area with its metal-like seats and spartan table, its kitchenette with a tiny chiller and microwave, its multipurpose sink, the sleeping area with its floored mattress, its toilet—only a curtain for privacy. One wall is fitted with an automated screen that turns itself on, off at central command. You don’t flick channels to choose the news, sports, documentaries, music or entertainment. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen comes on at a whim with the propaganda of the moment: sometimes it’s a choir of children in flowing pinafores and jester pantaloons singing slogans. Or the same children in sisal skirts and war paint doing a folk dance, chanting the Hau, Hau, Acha We song about decrying dissenters. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen goes silent as it does now, momentarily asleep.
All units in Ujamaa Village are the same. They are metallic khaki in color. Everyone’s within a kick, right there, next door. But you never hear anything—except the outside. And, mostly, as just then, the outside world brings the sound of dying.
Once a week you get a pass to use the Ujamaa Facility. It used to have gendered showers: hot sizzles and soap dispensers, a luxury despite the blandness of their products. But there are no more men in the village. Now the sizzler showers and their weekly extravagance are for everyone. There’s no place for modesty.
Whoop. Whoop. The work siren goes.
Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press and Writing Speculative Fiction by Red Globe Press, Macmillan. Eugen’s work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.
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