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The Gatekeeper's Staff

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TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now. Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now. Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations of TJ’s world. Desperate to pick up where his sister left off and uncover the secrets behind her questionable death, TJ commits himself to unlocking the magical heritage that has always eluded him. So he enrolls in Camp Olosa—a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans. But little does he know, TJ is destined to cross paths with powerful spirits of old thought lost to time: the orishas. Delve into this young adult fantasy based on the mythology of the West African Orishas, where TJ will encounter unlikely allies, tough-as-gatorhide instructors, and the ancient secrets of the orishas.


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TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now. Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now. Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations of TJ’s world. Desperate to pick up where his sister left off and uncover the secrets behind her questionable death, TJ commits himself to unlocking the magical heritage that has always eluded him. So he enrolls in Camp Olosa—a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans. But little does he know, TJ is destined to cross paths with powerful spirits of old thought lost to time: the orishas. Delve into this young adult fantasy based on the mythology of the West African Orishas, where TJ will encounter unlikely allies, tough-as-gatorhide instructors, and the ancient secrets of the orishas.

30 review for The Gatekeeper's Staff

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jashana

    Characters: TJ was such a fun main character. He was well-rounded and just trying to figure himself out and I thought he was a sweet kid. The side characters were also fun and dynamic and I enjoyed getting to know all of them and see their growth. World Building: it's our world, but with secret magic. I liked how it all worked together and learning about the different cultures' magical histories and practices a bit. We obviously follow diviner aka: Orisha magic more heavily, and that was fun to l Characters: TJ was such a fun main character. He was well-rounded and just trying to figure himself out and I thought he was a sweet kid. The side characters were also fun and dynamic and I enjoyed getting to know all of them and see their growth. World Building: it's our world, but with secret magic. I liked how it all worked together and learning about the different cultures' magical histories and practices a bit. We obviously follow diviner aka: Orisha magic more heavily, and that was fun to learn more about as well. Writing Style/Authorial Voice: considering I haven't been connecting with young adult recently, and I rarely ever connect with new middle grade, and I REALLY enjoyed this... I'd say that I enjoyed the writing style! Plot/Pacing: great pacing - very quick and attention-keeping. The plot made sense to me and there were various things happening but not so much that it became confusing (nor would likely be too confusing for a kid). Themes: friendship - standing up for yourself and others - finding out who you truly are - being brave and making sacrifices in order to save others Good Time?: a very good time! I was expecting to find the writing high quality and all of that, as I'm familiar with Antoine Bandele's work, but I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't looooove it since it's YA... but I was very pleasantly surprised with how much fun I had reading this and how much I enjoyed my time with it. Will continue the series with enthusiasm, for sure!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yasmine

    I received a free audiobook copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Wow, this was truly interesting! I wish this would have come out when I was younger, then I would have probably obsessed over it like the Percy Jackson or the Harry Potter books. Because that's exactly what it reminded me of. A PJ/HP mix, because basically this story follows a young magic-user who goes to camp to learn how to use his magic. And then there are the evil villains who try and wage their personal vendett I received a free audiobook copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Wow, this was truly interesting! I wish this would have come out when I was younger, then I would have probably obsessed over it like the Percy Jackson or the Harry Potter books. Because that's exactly what it reminded me of. A PJ/HP mix, because basically this story follows a young magic-user who goes to camp to learn how to use his magic. And then there are the evil villains who try and wage their personal vendetta and of course only the young teens have the wits to face off against them. All in all, this was a great and very enthralling story! The narrator, Nekia Renee did a great job and I really enjoyed listening to her storytelling. She has a great voice and can easily navigate between the different characters and the plot. Listening to her made the story even better, in my opinion! But of course Antoine Bandele's writing made all this possible and I admire his fantasy and imagination for coming up with this new world setting. TJ is a fun, but also a bit naive main character. Not surprising, as he's still a child. I am definitely not used to reading middle-grade books anymore. Nonetheless, the story never got boring or "oversimplified" such that an adult reader couldn't enjoy this book as well. All characters have their own personalities and great development as they embark on this adventure together. Since I do not have any knowledge of the Yoruba people in Nigeria, this was an entirely new background setting for me. I've learned a bit about Ifa, and the divination religion, but I cannot say that I fully understand it as this story only touches on it partially. However, I am very interested in learning more! Listening to the audiobook also helped realising how to pronounce the words, as I'm sure I would have struggled with this a lot if I'd read the book in paper form. I am very invested in TJ and his story now and can't wait to read how his journey to learning about his powers continues!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Rating; Really Enjoyed It/Absolutely Loved It = 4.5 Stars! This book was such a delight! I received a copy of the audiobook from the author via NetGalley in return for an honest review. That being said, at about 65% of the way through, I purchased a Kindle copy on Amazon because I didn't have any time left that night to listen to the audiobook and I needed to know what happened! I don't regret it one bit, and I look forward to following this series! The Gatekeeper's Staff is the first entry in th Rating; Really Enjoyed It/Absolutely Loved It = 4.5 Stars! This book was such a delight! I received a copy of the audiobook from the author via NetGalley in return for an honest review. That being said, at about 65% of the way through, I purchased a Kindle copy on Amazon because I didn't have any time left that night to listen to the audiobook and I needed to know what happened! I don't regret it one bit, and I look forward to following this series! The Gatekeeper's Staff is the first entry in the new YA series, TJ Young & The Orishas by Antoine Bandele. It follows 14 year-old Tomori Jomiloju, or TJ, Young, the only non-magical member of his family (besides his dad). He has wanted to go to Ifa Academy like his sister and learn to be a full-fledged Diviner, but he just doesn't have the Ashe that his mother and siblings do. When his sister dies in a mysterious way; however, TJ begins to show some skill with magic, and he is sent to Camp Olosa to improve and hone his skills. TJ is determined to use this new manifestation of Ashe to make contact with his sister and to learn the truth about how she died. What I Liked: * I thought that this was an incredible story. I have seen some comparisons to Harry Potter and to Percy Jackson, which I understand due to the male protagonist and the magic school/magical summer camp aspect as well as the magic's connection to the Orishas. However, I felt like this story was completely original. While some elements may be similar to those seen in other books, these characters, and the magic system were completely unique * I loved the West African folklore inspiration, and Bandele did an incredible job fleshing out the lore and the magic system. I'm not super familiar with the lore that this is based on, but from the other books I have read that include Orishas, it definitely had a unique spin to it, and I loved the world of the Diviners that he created. * This was Young Adult in which the characters are truly YOUNG ADULTS. TJ and his friends are 14, and some of the interactions were so chalk-full of secondhand embarrassment that it had me cringing and remembering why I would never want to go back to being a teenager! He gets hotheaded and makes the type dumb decisions that we all make when we are still developing that prefrontal cortex, and it was just great. It felt so perfectly written that I just had to admire that ability of Bandele to capture that so well, even if I was cursing him mildly for the high school flashbacks! * I loved the characters and the relationships that they built amongst themselves. It was so wonderful seeing TJ grow from the beginning of the story to the end, to make friends, and go from this super insecure and friendless teen to someone who is slowly figuring out who they are and making a place for themselves. * Once things start rolling a little over halfway through, there is not one dull or down moment, it is just go-go-go, and it was fantastic! What didn't work as well: - In my opinion, the pacing was not super consistent between the first and second half of the book, but there was a lot that needed to be set up and introduced, so I understood why that happened. I just felt very unsure of what the end goal was for a while and was unsure at first if this was going to distinguish itself from some of the other giants in the genre. It eventually did, but a lot of that came in the middle and the end - Didn't change my rating at all, but I was able to guess most of the twists, and that disappointed me a little bit because it felt like it was a big reveal, and I really wanted to be shocked by it, but I am able to call twists in most books, so that's not unusual. It was just a bit more disappointing than usual. The Audiobook: *The Audiobook was fantastic! I highly recommend giving this a listen if you are able. The narrator, Nekia Renee, was incredible and really brought the characters and world to life. I loved her use of different voices for the characters, and the use of accents between them depending on where they were from. Top notch voice-acting! * Another fun element of the audiobook was the use of sound effects to set the scene at the beginning of each chapter! They were not overused throughout the entire narration, but using them at those intervals added some ambience that I really enjoyed. Overall, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are looking for something for a younger male in your life! I definitely think that girls would love this too, but I know that the YA Fantasy field is dominated by female protagonists at the moment, and TJ is such a wonderful character to give younger audiences to follow! I love the themes of friendship and courage throughout, and it was just a really good time!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Holly *I have no idea what I’m doing* Abbott

    Audiobook review: Truly well done! This story is about a young boy going through big life changes in a very realistic way, while navigating a very fantastical world. Presented in a tone that feels personal, like a deja-vu of your own thoughts, the MC (TJ) becomes quickly relatable, though I have never personally encountered such events. I feel like I grew as a person as though I had experienced these trials along side TJ. I can’t wait to share it with my son when he reaches middle school age! No Audiobook review: Truly well done! This story is about a young boy going through big life changes in a very realistic way, while navigating a very fantastical world. Presented in a tone that feels personal, like a deja-vu of your own thoughts, the MC (TJ) becomes quickly relatable, though I have never personally encountered such events. I feel like I grew as a person as though I had experienced these trials along side TJ. I can’t wait to share it with my son when he reaches middle school age! No matter your age or lot in life, there’s something to be enjoyed in this tale of a 14 year old African American boy navigating a loss that creates a new path for him. He is a self described introvert that grows up feeling like an outsider, the mundane in an anything-but-mundane world. Pushing through that to make new friendships, his vulnerability is always there, admitting he still feels too normal to consider letting them get close. He is not the chosen, but he acts anyway. You may read the description and think “another camp adventure? Why try when Percy Jackson did it so well.” Well think again! This is its own unique adventure, with characters that feel real and individual, and a magic system that can actually be followed. TJ is a novice so you get to learn about much of the world and magic alongside him. His curiosity is contagious and the mystery draws you deep into the world of West African mythology. To be honest, I was unsure if I would be the right reader to review this as it is not exactly up my alley. However, the story itself and the way it was written makes it feel more universal. Though the author makes sure to explain that this is fantasy fiction and does not reflect the true practice of Ifa (please excuse any misspelling as I listened to, not read the story), it certainly sparked an interest in me to learn more of the culture surrounding it. The language used was descriptive, without feeling drawn out. There was never a time I felt as though I were wading through fillers. The world in which you are pulled through is rich and fantastical without being unobtainable. It makes the story much more lived in, similar to how Harry Potter comes across. This story I personally feel would be much more easily received by young people, though easily enjoyed by adults as well. The setting was well done, especially considering the overuse of the New Orleans bayou. Coincidently, my husband and I are going on a vacation to New Orleans in a week. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit the bayou and surrounding areas, growing up reading so many stories with NOLA as the setting. As often happens when a dream is about to come true, there are doubts and fears that arise in completing something you have been so invested in. But once again, this story has stoked that fire and my excitement has returned! The narrator did an excellent job reading in a tone that was easy to follow. Her narration of the dialogue was excellent, each voice unique and true to character. The only true critique I would have of her is that sometimes (not often) it felt near monotone through the story. The dialogue was very well done, but when there wasn’t any for long stretches of time, or an important or emotional moment, my mind would have difficulty staying interested and would somewhat wonder. This was no fault of the story, but the tone of voice used to read it. I have listened to many audiobooks that tried to incorporate certain sounds or special effects that often fell flat, felt misplaced, or had the opposite intended effect and seemed to take away the magic of the story. This was not the case in this audiobook. Maybe it is due to the placement, or maybe the editing job was much better or thought through. Either way, it is the first time I’ve heard it enhance the narration, rather than hinder it. Overall, if you are considering this book/audiobook for yourself or a young person in your life, it’s definitely worth your time! NetGalley review for the audiobook. This is a personal review, requested by the publisher with no bias or monetary compensation.

  5. 5 out of 5

    R.L. McIntyre

    This book is absolutely amazing! As a fan of mythological inspired stories especially magic camps, this one is a must-read. I am a huge fan of mythological inspired YA like Percy Jackson (I read them all when I was a kid) but often I find the genre is often heavily skewered towards Roman, Greek, or more recently Norse mythology. I've been dying for a fresh take on this trope and Bandele did just that. This book explores West African Orisha mythology and does a great job of doing so in a way that This book is absolutely amazing! As a fan of mythological inspired stories especially magic camps, this one is a must-read. I am a huge fan of mythological inspired YA like Percy Jackson (I read them all when I was a kid) but often I find the genre is often heavily skewered towards Roman, Greek, or more recently Norse mythology. I've been dying for a fresh take on this trope and Bandele did just that. This book explores West African Orisha mythology and does a great job of doing so in a way that even if you have no clue of the culture you can understand and be fully immersed. There is even a pronunciation guide which I 100% loved having. TJ is an amazing protagonist. He's so relatable to people of all ages. He struggles to fit into his world, wants to make his parents proud, and struggles with grief. I really appreciated the focus on grief instead of treating it as a passing thought. Even the various reactions of characters to grief helped to show that there is no one way to grieve (which is huge!). TJ's journey is full of all the things I love about the troop from camp friends, mysterious events, and of course a variety of teachers. This is just the start for TJ and I cannot wait to see what happens next. If you loved the Percy Jackson series this is a great book to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Fourteen-year-old T.J. Young has always felt a little out of place. Living in the shadow of his accomplished older sister Dayo and his gifted younger brother Tunde, T.J. struggles to find a situation in which he excels. He is not good at basketball, but somehow his team always seems to win, which has earned him the nickname “lucky charm.” Likewise, magic does not come as easily to him as it does to the diviners in his family. When an unexpected tragedy is thrust upon him, though, T.J.’s world be Fourteen-year-old T.J. Young has always felt a little out of place. Living in the shadow of his accomplished older sister Dayo and his gifted younger brother Tunde, T.J. struggles to find a situation in which he excels. He is not good at basketball, but somehow his team always seems to win, which has earned him the nickname “lucky charm.” Likewise, magic does not come as easily to him as it does to the diviners in his family. When an unexpected tragedy is thrust upon him, though, T.J.’s world begins to shift, and T.J. receives an unexpected invitation to attend Camp Olosa for the summer. Here, deep in the Louisiana Bayou, T.J. meets others who help him realize the truth of who he is. Antoine Bandele has a way with words, drawing readers into his stories through simile, descriptive language, and compelling dialogue. This book is no exception, and the depth of its presentation makes readers feel as though they are just as involved in the story as T.J. and his friends are. Colloquial language endears the characters to readers, and inclusions of Yoruba, Spanish, and Portuguese season the narrative beautifully. An extensive glossary at the end and a pronunciation guide at the beginning help orient readers to the plethora of varied terms used in the text. Using the Orishas of West African folklore as a foundation, this story incorporates ample action sequences and emotional revelations as it establishes a riveting plot. Readers will quickly become comfortable with the dynamic and powerful Orishas and their role in the lives of T.J. and his friends. Commentary about current events in American culture toward Black Americans is included as well, adding a contemporary and palpable layer to this story. Expertly written, this deeply engaging tale is a great fit for readers who enjoy stories that incorporate magic realism into the world of folklore. Middle grade readers will recognize many of the challenges T.J. faces, especially those readers who feel they do not fit the mold expected by others. Readers in middle grade and above will dive into this enjoyable story and will anxiously await the next installment. I received a copy of this book from the author and I chose to leave this review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bayan Sh

    Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book! This was such an enjoyable read, I can't even begin to tell you how fun it was! I may have started it annoyed at the trope of having a lonely bullied main character becoming the most special among his peers and all, but I was beat! It was very well written, the characters strongly created, the plot very well woven and the additions of Nigerian culture myths and legends were astonishing! I loved the characters of the MC's best friends an Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book! This was such an enjoyable read, I can't even begin to tell you how fun it was! I may have started it annoyed at the trope of having a lonely bullied main character becoming the most special among his peers and all, but I was beat! It was very well written, the characters strongly created, the plot very well woven and the additions of Nigerian culture myths and legends were astonishing! I loved the characters of the MC's best friends and honestly the twist at the ending was very shocking to me, I didn't see it coming! I'm very excited to read more of this author and the series, I will be talking more about this on my YouTube channel soon!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vishnu Chevli

    I was listening to too many serious books that I decided to try one YA or middle-grade fantasy book. It was then I came across "The Gatekeeper's Staff" on Netgalley. I liked the cover and description, on top of that I have listened to one more book by the author, so I applied for the review copy. I got it in exchange for an honest review. The story is written around boy TJ who belonged to a magician family. Magician in the book is known as diviners. TJ's sister was a child prodigy and was working I was listening to too many serious books that I decided to try one YA or middle-grade fantasy book. It was then I came across "The Gatekeeper's Staff" on Netgalley. I liked the cover and description, on top of that I have listened to one more book by the author, so I applied for the review copy. I got it in exchange for an honest review. The story is written around boy TJ who belonged to a magician family. Magician in the book is known as diviners. TJ's sister was a child prodigy and was working on a secret project. Though he was from a strong line of magicians, his skill as a magician was nothing but a lucky charm and tingling on the top of his fingers. But the demise of her sister changed everything. He was selected for a camp where wizard kids go for training. Read the book to know more. When I started the book and heard words like Orisha, Diviner, Ashe I thought the author has taken ideas from Tomi Adeyemi. But later on, I searched on the internet and found that Orisha is mythology and no one has their claim on it. The book is a good mixture of fantasy, mythology, a mystery to give you good company. I will wait for the sequel. The book deserves a good 4 out of 5.

  9. 5 out of 5

    S.E. Anderson

    Drop everything and preorder The Gatekeeper’s Staff right now! I could not put this book down, and now I’m totally obsessed with Antoine Bandele and want everything he’s ever written. TJ Young and the Orishas is a new MG/YA series based on Yoruba tradition. Our 14 year old protagonist, TJ, has lived his entire life surrounded by a magic he cannot summon. His entire family and their secret diviner community can wield Ashe through the Orishas, including his powerful sister, a young woman ordained b Drop everything and preorder The Gatekeeper’s Staff right now! I could not put this book down, and now I’m totally obsessed with Antoine Bandele and want everything he’s ever written. TJ Young and the Orishas is a new MG/YA series based on Yoruba tradition. Our 14 year old protagonist, TJ, has lived his entire life surrounded by a magic he cannot summon. His entire family and their secret diviner community can wield Ashe through the Orishas, including his powerful sister, a young woman ordained by prophecy to lead his people into a new age of prosperity. Except... she dies. Now TJ is trying to investigate her death, and the only way to do so is to tap into the magic he’s never been able to wield. Thankfully there’s help, in the form of Camp Olosa—a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans. Let me lay out all the awesome in this book: ✨ You love Percy Jackson but want West African gods? You got it! ☁️ Tons of intrigue that’ll keep you asking questions all the way through; 🐊 Incredible magic system and brilliant world-building; 👩🏾‍🦱 Smart young characters who you love from page one; 🙏not the Chosen One! 💥Action, emotion, mystery, twists, gods... all perfectly woven together. I am totally obsessed! I feel the way I did when I first read Percy Jackson as a pre-teen. I just want the next book right now! You’re going to hear me talk about this one for a long, long time. It comes out June 19th and you gotta make sure to get a copy! 🦈

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marie Reed

    I thought I'd read all the magical summer camp fantasy books a person could take. Then I saw this cover and knew I had to read it before I even knew what it is about, because it is gorgeous. I need a glossy cover hardback with that green shining just as brightly as it does on the ebook version. This should be up there right along the Percy Jackson series. It is so well written! The characters are all gloriously complex, from TJ and his group of friends to the Orishas. The magic system is introduc I thought I'd read all the magical summer camp fantasy books a person could take. Then I saw this cover and knew I had to read it before I even knew what it is about, because it is gorgeous. I need a glossy cover hardback with that green shining just as brightly as it does on the ebook version. This should be up there right along the Percy Jackson series. It is so well written! The characters are all gloriously complex, from TJ and his group of friends to the Orishas. The magic system is introduced in a way that a beginner would understand, because TJ is almost as much of a beginner as the reader. His Ashe doesn't reveal itself until after his sister's funeral, but even coming from a strong magical family doesn't help him develop it in the way he wants to in order to live up to everyone's expectations. He's an awkward young Black teenager who doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere, and even when he thinks he must have finally found his place, he is still the random puzzle piece that doesn't quite fit. I can't wait for my daughter to be ready to read a 400+ page book, because I am ready to read it with her. If you know a middle school aged kid, get them this book. And if you don't, read it anyway, because it is fantastic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dee Dee (Dee Reads for Food)

    CW: deals with death and grief -------------------------------------------- If you've ever been interested in books based on different mythologies/lore, then this book is up your alley. If you've ever been a fan of 'the screw up now has to save us all', then this one is for you. If you like stories that have action and a mystery, but also character growth, then hop on in. -------------------------------------------- This is the perfect opener for what can be a really fun and addictive series. TJ is CW: deals with death and grief -------------------------------------------- If you've ever been interested in books based on different mythologies/lore, then this book is up your alley. If you've ever been a fan of 'the screw up now has to save us all', then this one is for you. If you like stories that have action and a mystery, but also character growth, then hop on in. -------------------------------------------- This is the perfect opener for what can be a really fun and addictive series. TJ is stubborn, self-deprecating, caring and determined, exactly what you would hope for in a main character. He isn't the shining hero that you can immediately tell will conquer the baddie. Instead, you watch him struggle with finding himself and finding his power, surrounded by persons far superior to him in skill. The friendships are gold, even though they didn't all start off on the best foot, by the time it's over, you can't wait to journey with them onto the next stage of their lives. All of this is to say, get this book immediately, and then pre-order book 2 as soon as it becomes possible to do so. TJ needs the encouragement.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bente

    Thank you to Netgalley, Bandele Books, IBPA and Members' Audiobooks for providing me with the audiobook. This book was an extremely fun middle grade read. TJ Young is a very likeable main character whose struggles feel authentic and realistic. The story took a while to build up, but it did keep me entertained the entire time. Each side character also developed throughout the story in some way, although characters like Ayo could have been more fleshed out. There were a lot of twists and turns, mo Thank you to Netgalley, Bandele Books, IBPA and Members' Audiobooks for providing me with the audiobook. This book was an extremely fun middle grade read. TJ Young is a very likeable main character whose struggles feel authentic and realistic. The story took a while to build up, but it did keep me entertained the entire time. Each side character also developed throughout the story in some way, although characters like Ayo could have been more fleshed out. There were a lot of twists and turns, most of which were a little predictable but that didn't really bother me. My favourite aspects of this book are the mythology, world building and magic system. I had read one book inspired by the West African mythology before, but this one made the mythology and magic system really accessible and easy to understand. This was enhanced a lot by the audiobook and the amazing narrator. Overall, this was a fun and adventurous story that I'd recommend to all young readers. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A kid who is considered a lucky charm at school is muddling through at a charter school, when he learns his sister is dead, and he has to go to camp. It's a magical summer camp. Derivative. I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A kid who is considered a lucky charm at school is muddling through at a charter school, when he learns his sister is dead, and he has to go to camp. It's a magical summer camp. Derivative.

  14. 5 out of 5

    des!

    If you loved the Kane Chronicles but thought it would be infinitely better if only it was written by a Black author with more than surface level knowledge of African mythology and about 100% less cringe worthy antagonist then oh boy do I have a book for you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yolanda

    This book had everything you look for in a well told story. From adventure and intrigue to suspense and laughter. I couldn't put it down once I started reading. TJ represents so many teen aged boys who feel out of place and or awkward. In his journey to find the mystery behind his sister's death he is introduced to his authentic self. This page turner will have you rooting out loud for your favorite characters. All of the characters are well developed and you get a sense of being more than a voy This book had everything you look for in a well told story. From adventure and intrigue to suspense and laughter. I couldn't put it down once I started reading. TJ represents so many teen aged boys who feel out of place and or awkward. In his journey to find the mystery behind his sister's death he is introduced to his authentic self. This page turner will have you rooting out loud for your favorite characters. All of the characters are well developed and you get a sense of being more than a voyer on their journey. I can't wait to read TJ's next adventure and find out who and what he will encounter next!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dani (Paperback Wishes)

    “TJ couldn’t deny what he sensed afterward, how he felt at that moment. Deep down, something within him had changed.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rating: 4 out of 5. Magic school/camp novels are treated so unfairly in our community. The success of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson make everyone dismiss these books as repetitive. Hello? You liked it for a reason? Most of the time people choose to just love those series and ignore the rest of the genre. Not to mention the weird trend of people only saying “it’s played out” wh “TJ couldn’t deny what he sensed afterward, how he felt at that moment. Deep down, something within him had changed.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rating: 4 out of 5. Magic school/camp novels are treated so unfairly in our community. The success of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson make everyone dismiss these books as repetitive. Hello? You liked it for a reason? Most of the time people choose to just love those series and ignore the rest of the genre. Not to mention the weird trend of people only saying “it’s played out” when BIPOC want to write it. How does that make sense? Here to save you from this terrible decision/opinion is TJ Young and the Orishas series! TJ Young is a very special not-so-special kid. He comes from a very talented family of Diviners, but is magically-challenged himself. When his sister suddenly and mysteriously passes, he goes to Camp Olosa, where the threads around his sister’s death begin to unravel. I really loved this book for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one that was make-or-break for me was liking TJ Young. With any book that has young protagonists, I can expect to dislike them a bit and I can blame it away on their youth and move along. TJ is such an earnest kid that it made me heart feel for him the whole way through. It was his narration and perspective that made me read straight through the book. From the beginning, he’s a kid who knows his strengths. He’s determined, observant, fun not flashy, and he really reminded me of who I would have liked to be at 14. I also really loved the focus on family in this book. All kinds of families. A big focus on tradition. And not just tradition for the sake of it, but really focusing on what tradition and your culture brings to your family and to an individual. I felt like the book was really great at being introspective without trying to hard. That may just be me always looking deeper into things, but I think I’m valid. I do especially love the way that this book follows tropes we love, but making them entirely it’s own. TJ is surrounded by family, loved ones supporting him in a way that we are taught heroes aren’t. I get tired of the “one man against the world-yes he has family, but he is alone!” thing. TJ’s a late bloomer kind of hero who knows all about the way the world really works, but hasn’t been able to access it himself. When he does, it’s like the world he’s always been able to see finally feels like it’s for him now, but he feels way more driven than ever to prove himself. I’ll honestly never get tired of stories like that. Under all the magic, it’s always about growing into yourself and learned self-confidence, which is a lesson that nobody ever stops learning. The plot is very faced paced, you never really get a second to be bored with action, mystery, and drama in each chapter, which is a pretty big plus for this book. The only parts that ever got slow for me were the moments when people talk around TJ instead of talking to him. I just felt like since TJ didn’t fully get what was happening, it was hard for me to understand or get really into it. That was mostly only in the beginning of the book so beside that, the book was great at keeping my attention. Learning about the Orishas was also really cool. The book doesn’t feel nor does it try to be a textbook, but you still gather a lot. And not just names as titles, but you also get a sense of what these deities mean to people. How they are intertwined in people’s daily lives through their songs, practices, even wardrobe. But if you’ve never heard of the Orishas before this, or like me, needed some refreshers, the book has a very helpful pronunciation guide and glossary at the beginning and back of the book, respectively. Also, there are illustrations throughout that are absolutely marvelous. The artist is Arthur Bowling and there are illustrations for the book on his website as well as social medias which are definitely worth a look! The book also has a prequel short story and a short story epilogue to accompany the book which are pretty optional, but fun! TL;DR: It’s a worthwhile ya fantasy that gives you an awesome adventure. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants some of their favorite classic hero tropes, but are also getting tired of their favorite classic hero tropes. Also, it’s just awesome to support indie publishing. Finished Copy provided by Antoine Bandele and Bandele Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Audrey S

    I have been slowly moving away from YA for a few years now, having found the stories just not for me anymore. However, when the author reached out to me to review this book - I couldn’t resist. I’ve read Bandele’s novels in the past (Demons, Monks, & Lovers is still one of my faves) and I was even more excited to have the opportunity to review the audiobook version. So, first off, I legit have no idea how I’m going to write this review, I just want to rave about so much! The Gatekeeper’s staff is I have been slowly moving away from YA for a few years now, having found the stories just not for me anymore. However, when the author reached out to me to review this book - I couldn’t resist. I’ve read Bandele’s novels in the past (Demons, Monks, & Lovers is still one of my faves) and I was even more excited to have the opportunity to review the audiobook version. So, first off, I legit have no idea how I’m going to write this review, I just want to rave about so much! The Gatekeeper’s staff is the first book in a series inspired by the mythology of the West African Orishas. 14 year old TJ Young comes from a family of diviners, a secret community spread across the world, with the ability to perform magic. Except TJ has never been able to connect much to magic at all. His world is suddenly flipped upside down when his older, beloved sister dies mysteriously. Desperate to piece together the questions left behind by her loss, TJ enrolls in Camp Olosa - think fast track magic school. It is here he realizes that all isn’t what it seems and that he’s going to need to learn fast if he ever hopes to unlock magic of his own. Grief plays a strong part in this book and Bandele doesn’t gloss over it. What I loved was the attention he gave to the family’s grieving process and Dayo’s funeral. As someone who is pushing for more Death Positivity in novels, this was a breath of fresh air - funerals are sad, they’re about processing loss, but they can also be about celebrating someone’s life. And Dayo’s is a life that deserves to be celebrated. As for TJ, he is a kid that I think so many of us, young and old(er), can relate to. Wanting to fit in, wanting to make his family proud, nervous about making new friends, all of these build TJ up to be a great character at the center of a series. Camp Olosa draws inspiration from Percy Jackson but I honestly think it stands entirely on its own. I can see this in the hands of so many kids and them becoming obsessed with creating their own, real-life Camp Olosa. There is well written friendship, teachers that you can grow close to or become suspicious of, and one of my favorite alligators that I’ve ever read about. Now for the audiobook - OMG Nekia Renee is the voice I never knew I needed for a YA novel. Her voice and cadence are some of the most addictive I’ve listened to in a long time. I never wanted to press pause (though I’m sure the story helped with that as well). Not to mention the audio production is next level, with music and ambience to wrap you up in the world with every chapter. An incredible job from everyone involved! The Gatekeeper’s Staff book is full of adventure, full of magic, and full of heart - I just want to shove this beautiful book into the hands of every teenager and pre-teen. CW: Loss of a sibling, grief, some fatphobia, & inspiration from HP (but no mentions that I noticed). **I received an audiobook ARC from the author in exchange for my honest review**

  18. 5 out of 5

    Becky Brook

    I burnt my breakfast reading this book (because I was so absorbed in it)! This story had a great start introducing us to TJ in a likeable way. The story is an emotional journey and shows great growth of characters, with a couple of twists. There's classes, struggle, young love, adventure, betrayal, gods, death, bargains and memory loss. Book One of TJ Young & the Orishas tells a complete story, but is part of a larger story, so it left me satisfied yet wanting more. TJ is a great, flawed hero. Non I burnt my breakfast reading this book (because I was so absorbed in it)! This story had a great start introducing us to TJ in a likeable way. The story is an emotional journey and shows great growth of characters, with a couple of twists. There's classes, struggle, young love, adventure, betrayal, gods, death, bargains and memory loss. Book One of TJ Young & the Orishas tells a complete story, but is part of a larger story, so it left me satisfied yet wanting more. TJ is a great, flawed hero. None of this perfect-at-first-try stuff for him, he seemed to fail at every turn, yet had a certain something in him. I really liked this about him, and seeing his confidence and powers grow over the course of the book. I enjoyed the friendships forming (love their “don't make it weird" in-joke), as different characters are fleshed out and not just 2-dimensional stereotypes. In some teen books, the kids make half-baked plans and they work out. Not so here and I liked that too - some plans work (in a way) and in others they are inevitably caught. Nice realism! Other things I liked: I enjoyed this story about this culture and I feel like I learned a lot; I like the term clouded for the non-magical folk; and I also liked how it mentioned there are other magical people's as well, as this makes for nice, well-rounded world building. So I’m not just saying all super positive things, here is my nitpicky little gripes with this book: Who names a dog Simba? I kept thinking it was a cat!! And, the book explained how he got into the library in camp, but not how he got out. I was wondering how it worked since he worked his way in! Language: There is a pronunciation guide, but I don't know how to pronounce the sounds that are written, but thank you for including it. I kept a Google Translate tab open as well as my book when reading; sometimes the direct translations were funny, but other times it didn't work. We didn't need it for the plot, but I may have liked translations into English, as I don't speak Yoruba. A footnote on each page for words that would be unfamiliar to many of us, would be helpful. Sometimes looking these words up took me out of the story. Again, this isn’t necessary, just something I would have liked. Also, the end glossary would be good in a physical book. I never think to look them up until the end in an e-book, even though I can flick back & forward (so that’s my bad). So, I was sitting in the kitchen making muesli (that’s granola for Americans), not wanting to leave the room because I didn’t want to burn it, so I was sitting on the step stool reading. I was enjoying this book so much that I burnt my muesli while sitting right there! (Luckily, it was still edible 😊 ) I really enjoyed the story: it left me wanting the next one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Equal Opportunity Reader

    I LOVED THIS. Before I get into the review, let me just say–if you know a pre-teen boy who loves magic and adventure, get him this book. If he’s Black, get him two copies. This is the first book I’ve read in 2021 that made me want to clap and cheer and read portions of it out loud to other people and I can’t recommend it highly enough. ⠀⠀ That said, this owes a LOT to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Bandele wears these influences proudly on his sleeve but adds enough freshness in the form of kid- I LOVED THIS. Before I get into the review, let me just say–if you know a pre-teen boy who loves magic and adventure, get him this book. If he’s Black, get him two copies. This is the first book I’ve read in 2021 that made me want to clap and cheer and read portions of it out loud to other people and I can’t recommend it highly enough. ⠀⠀ That said, this owes a LOT to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Bandele wears these influences proudly on his sleeve but adds enough freshness in the form of kid-fantasy-friendly Yoruba spirituality references and heaps of global Black culture moments that I didn’t mind all of the obvious similarities.⠀⠀ So, here’s the story: 14-year old TJ Young lives in LA with his dad (a regular brotha from the hood) and his mom (a Nigerian immigrant & the most powerful Yoruba water sorceress of modern times). His brother Tunde and sister Dayo are both supernaturally talented but TJ seems to take after his dad as one of the ‘clouded’–practically unmagical.⠀ ⠀ Then Dayo dies in a mysterious accident and things begin to change for TJ, culminating in a summer trip to Camp Olosa, a place for troubled Yoruba spellcasters deep in the Louisiana bayou. With the help of his new friends — country boy Josh and New York Afro-Latina Manny — TJ finds himself on a mission that brings him face to face with the gods themselves. ⠀⠀ Did I already say I loved this? Because I did. I loved the storyline and all the ways it plays with the now-familiar “magic school” tropes. I loved how the story featured Black people and cultures from all over the diaspora, connected by very tangible West African history and spirituality. I loved the portrayal of the Orisha, Yoruba spiritual beings with powerful abilities but very human-like foibles. I loved TJ, a genuinely kind, caring kid with close connections to his family. I even loved that the cafeteria at Camp Olosa serves cornbread and gumbo.⠀ But most of all I loved that this was fun, culturally layered, and full of adventure. I had a blast reading this and I want the second book NOW (but alas, we’ll have to wait…this one won’t even be officially released until Juneteenth).⠀⠀ 5 stars and a little bit of my Ashe to The Gatekeeper’s Staff. ⠀⠀ Kind thanks to Antoine Bandele for an ARC of this. *crackhead scratch* So, uh, when can I get the next installment? You got anymore of them plot twists? If you liked this review, you can follow me here or on Facebook, Instagram, or check out my blog. Peace, fellow readers!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bee

    𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 by Antoine Bandele is quite frankly incredible. Unlike a lot of audiobooks, 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 has a lot of atmospheric sound effects as the story unfolds and the narrator Nekia Renee brings every character to life so you feel like you are there with TJ as his life changes more than he can ever imagine. I really like that TJ is a self-confessed introvert which for many will be something they can relate to. The Young famil 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 by Antoine Bandele is quite frankly incredible. Unlike a lot of audiobooks, 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 has a lot of atmospheric sound effects as the story unfolds and the narrator Nekia Renee brings every character to life so you feel like you are there with TJ as his life changes more than he can ever imagine. I really like that TJ is a self-confessed introvert which for many will be something they can relate to. The Young family live in a magical enclave in modern-day Los Angeles, but unlike his siblings and Mother, TJ is mundane - finding himself unable to truly fit in anywhere whether it be with his peers in school who aren't a part of the magical community nor within his family. Bandele's way of describing the way TJ finds out about the passing of his sister is so well done and although we as the reader don't meet her, you cannot help but resonate with his initial confusion and then anger and need for answers as to what took someone who was a magical prodigy away from them all. His journey of discovery leads to him breaking out of his introverted way of existing as his main focus becomes on answers and truth because things simply do not add up. I again welcomed the fact that his journey of awareness isn't easy, Bandele could have easily had TJ using his sister's notoriety to get what he wants but instead it is resolence and acceptance that what he thought of being pure luck throughout his life could be the key to discovery. He takes risks, many being things we would regard as normal, he finds himself going away to New Orleans as part of a camp designed to help those who didn't enter the various schools of Magic gain a control on their skills. (No... this is nothing like Harry Potter etc before you think that... I promise.) TJ learns he can break a shyness and gain friends who become fiercely loyal and educate him just as much as the adults do on the deities known as Orishas. This to me is where Antoine Bandele's book truly comes into its own by introducing the legends of Orishas within this fictional tale. I found each and everyone of them fascinating as they were completely new to me... Wikipedia became my friend for learning more about them and I cannot wait for more from the TY and the Orishas series to learn about them both in a fictional and a factual manner. 𝘛𝘑 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨 & 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘴 : 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 is a must for me and I cannot wait for more. You may get drawn in by the beautiful cover art but you will stay for this story that draws you in and makes you eager for answers and justice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Quizzle

    TJ Young is the black Percy Jackson with all the character flaws I missed in the Percy Jackson series. TJ is not the hero you expect him to be. He’s a 14-year-old boy struggling with the loss of his hero sister who TJ and his family think should have been there to save the day. Instead there’s TJ, his magic has yet to develop, he has no friends at school and is grieving his sister. But, when his magic might finally start to flourish, he gets accepted into a summer camp, where he can train with o TJ Young is the black Percy Jackson with all the character flaws I missed in the Percy Jackson series. TJ is not the hero you expect him to be. He’s a 14-year-old boy struggling with the loss of his hero sister who TJ and his family think should have been there to save the day. Instead there’s TJ, his magic has yet to develop, he has no friends at school and is grieving his sister. But, when his magic might finally start to flourish, he gets accepted into a summer camp, where he can train with other kids. I love how TJ’s magic doesn’t ‘magically’ gets stronger in this camp. He’s still bad, which is realistic (and another thing I disliked in Percy Jackson). TJ has his struggles with magic, but also his social awkwardness and Puberty insecurities to deal with. TJ acts exactly his age and so do his friends. The plot was also very fun to experience, as it revolves around Nigerian mythology. I have no prior knowledge, but it’s explained in simple ways that it was very easy to understand. Still, this simple explanation didn’t dull the story. This magic being set in our world made it easier to forget that you’re reading, and the characters make you feel like you’re truly there with them. The plot twists were well thought out and I only saw one of them coming. The ending was great and the chapters leading up to it were so well written I was clenching my fists whenever things got tense and I couldn’t believe it was over at the end. The humour as well was written at the exact moments I needed them, and it’s been an amazing adventure reading this book. As I’ve listened to the audiobook, I will say some things about that experience as well. I loved how it was read to me and it was clear and understandable when you sped things up a bit. I listened for the most part at two times speed, because I’m a monster and insane like that, and the quality of the reading didn’t go down at all. I loved the accents and different voices for characters. It was almost perfect. There’s one thing I disliked about the audio recording. I have Misophonia, which means that I react to certain sounds. If you struggle with this too, I have a slight warning for you. A lot of characters suck through their teeth and the recording demonstrates it every time someone does. It bothered me to say the least. But concluding this review, I really enjoyed this book, I can’t wait for a sequel, TJ is awesome, and I loved reading about Nigerian mythology. I definitely want to find out more about that now and of course I give it five stars. Well done! I was given access to this audiobook by Netgalley in exchange for and honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    This work is Incredible and I intend to offer these books as bibliotherapy for my clients as soon as possible. Despite me having drastically different life experiences from TJ, Antoine manages to masterfully blend relatability of characters and life circumstances like playground awkwardness, sibling relationships, and death and mourning, with the magnificent narrative-driven education that Antoine also provides all of us readers around Yoruban society and the Ifa religion and some of the West Af This work is Incredible and I intend to offer these books as bibliotherapy for my clients as soon as possible. Despite me having drastically different life experiences from TJ, Antoine manages to masterfully blend relatability of characters and life circumstances like playground awkwardness, sibling relationships, and death and mourning, with the magnificent narrative-driven education that Antoine also provides all of us readers around Yoruban society and the Ifa religion and some of the West African ways of being and knowing.  Many authors try to offer education while presenting the backstory, however I find that this often comes across as a rather clunky lore dump. Antoine's approach however I find to be tremendously engaging and accessible as it adds richness and depth to the narrative while simultaneously providing an immense amount of lore and information and education. Antoine has this beautiful way of just seamlessly weaving it into the conversation or the character's consciousness, dialogue, imagery, etc. Part of the beauty of that for me as a white reader is that it's also educating me on the African American experience in the US, as well as afrocentric ways of knowing, being, teaching, and storytelling. I get this strong sense that all aspects of the story, much like all aspects of Life, are interconnected and impacting one another, advancing both the plot and its meaning with every page. This is especially evident to my eyes as we see the power of community portrayed with such reverence and complexity. As a reader I also deeply appreciate the effort and time Antoine put into the educational pronunciation guide in the beginning of the book. Why in the world don't more authors do that? So helpful! So appreciated! Also I am really appreciating the imagery Antoine uses throughout the action scenes and the way I feel like Antoine is evoking multiple senses that engage my mind and my body as I read through the scene and sense the tension. The way Antoine describes the collaborative effort of battle vividly depicts how all of the community members support each other and move as one unit. Decentering singular heroes and centering the power of the community where every person fills a valuable role. It makes each battle feel even more epic and raises the goose bumps as the camaraderie resonates through. I could not help but grow as a person as my worldview, paradigms, and imagination were enriched and expanded by the storytelling of Antoine Bandele!  Bandele Books need to be everywhere! 

  23. 4 out of 5

    Solace

    This book is an enjoyable read filled with fantastical elements inspired from West African mythology. It was refreshing to read a fantasy book that was not based in an European setting. The book also features the African-American family and community bond. The protagonist's relationship with his parents and sister is wonderfully portrayed (though we are only "told" about him and his sister, I would have liked to see some flashbacks of his sister so her character and sibling bond with TJ seemed m This book is an enjoyable read filled with fantastical elements inspired from West African mythology. It was refreshing to read a fantasy book that was not based in an European setting. The book also features the African-American family and community bond. The protagonist's relationship with his parents and sister is wonderfully portrayed (though we are only "told" about him and his sister, I would have liked to see some flashbacks of his sister so her character and sibling bond with TJ seemed more believable). The book is set in a summer camp, which is very atmospheric and nostalgic, not to mention an apt read for the current time. My biggest problem with this book is that it is very trope-y and predictable. I don't know if this was done consciously or not, but the book heavily draws from the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series, both in character caricatures and plot development. TJ sees a female camper who is very skilled in their magic and is immediately smitten by her (Annabeth Chase from PJ?). TJ befriends a male camper who is unpopular and eats all the time (Ron Weasley from HP?). This "foodie" character is obviously fat and does nothing except eat, think about eating, and talk about eating (I don't think I have to explain why this is problematic). TJ is mocked/bullied by a rich popular guy who is mean to him for no reason except that TJ has some magical fame to his family name (Draco Malfoy from PJ?). I could have ignored these character similarities cause they have become a staple in most MG/YA fantasy books. But the "plot twist" or "villain reveal" is so obviously taken from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone! TJ hates a camp teacher (let's call him Mr. X) just because he is strict and we are made to believe that Mr. X is the one causing menace. I won't tell who the culprit ultimately is (cause spoilers), but if you have read Philosopher's Stone, you know. I'm giving this 3 stars cause I believe the series has a lot of potential, and I'd love to read about African mythology and Nigerian culture, if the author does not repeat these particularly popular tropes. Audiobook: 5/5 for the narrator and production! There were amazing sound effects (crickets chirping, children chattering, airport announcements etc) that make you feel that you're living in the story. The narrator's voice and accents were engaging and definitely piqued by interest in the story (I am not Nigerian so I will not comment whether the accents were accurate or not).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Rizk

    Percy Jackson heads to Africa - in the New Orleans lagoon. Magic camp, meet the nearly magicless TJ. TJ's sister, Dayo, was special. The promised child. A talented strong magic user respected by the entire magical world. But to TJ, she was a friend and sometimes confidante. It's not just TJ who's devastated at her death. But when magicless TJ thinks his sister's spirit might be trying to communicate with him, and when a group known as the Keepers attack at her funeral, TJ desperately tries to fin Percy Jackson heads to Africa - in the New Orleans lagoon. Magic camp, meet the nearly magicless TJ. TJ's sister, Dayo, was special. The promised child. A talented strong magic user respected by the entire magical world. But to TJ, she was a friend and sometimes confidante. It's not just TJ who's devastated at her death. But when magicless TJ thinks his sister's spirit might be trying to communicate with him, and when a group known as the Keepers attack at her funeral, TJ desperately tries to find out more about his sister's life and death, even if it means attending a remedial magic camp, where his lack of magic will embarrassingly become obvious to all. TJ is excited when he finally shows enough magic to qualify for entrance to a remedial magic camp, but the shadows of his sister's successes follow him even there. Wherever TJ turns, people offer condolences for his sister's death. As if dealing with her loss weren't enough, his counselors constantly marvel at how much better at everything Dayo was, while TJ can barely do as well as kids half his age. TJ's struggles felt realistic and very relatable. His character arc was nicely developed. His friends were the prefect cherries on top. They had great chemistry. I really enjoyed reading this book. It had the feel of a magic school, plus a great coming of age plot, close friendships, and tons more. This book is great for Percy Jackson fans. While those books focus on Greek and Roman mythology, those legends are pretty well known in western culture. This book focuses on African culture, specifically Nigerian. More specifically, the Yoruba ethnic culture. Mind you, I knew nothing about them until reading this book, so you can see how much smarter I now am. Bragging aside, the ideas and cultural appetizers here were new and wonderfully refreshing. The story flowed beautifully with all the cultural and mythological references, while also making for fantastic world building. And of course, the main character was African American himself. I actually learned a lot about Nigerian culture & mythology, plus a handful of words.  I really think this series can become the next Percy Jackson/Harry Potter. It's packed with magic, action, friendships, betrayal, wily crocodiles, talking trees... I'm surprised this wasn't picked up by a major publisher yet. It has so much potential. I really enjoyed it. Percy Jackson was a fantastic book, but I'm liking TJ Young much better. I'm looking forward to the next book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This review and more at superstardrifter.com~ Tomori Jomiloju (or, just TJ) Young is a 14 year old boy who lives in Los Angeles. He is part of a secret community of diviners. Though he never manifested any magical abilities himself, his mother, older sister, and younger brother all have various magical powers. His older sister Ifedayo mysteriously dies in Nigeria, leading to all sorts of paranormal shenanigans, and TJ finds himself not only suddenly having magic, but having to learn to use it as This review and more at superstardrifter.com~ Tomori Jomiloju (or, just TJ) Young is a 14 year old boy who lives in Los Angeles. He is part of a secret community of diviners. Though he never manifested any magical abilities himself, his mother, older sister, and younger brother all have various magical powers. His older sister Ifedayo mysteriously dies in Nigeria, leading to all sorts of paranormal shenanigans, and TJ finds himself not only suddenly having magic, but having to learn to use it as well. He enrolls in a magical camp in New Orleans. From there, the Orisha adventures never stop. This book has a helpful pronunciation guide at the beginning of it, as it does contain Yoruba phrases, along with a host of West African and French names. I listened to the audiobook, and so I didn’t need help with pronunciation, but if I had read the print version, I know that it would have been a wonderful asset to have. This book could be enjoyed by anyone from middle-grade onward. It takes the magical school trope and made it seem unique by combining it with mythology from the Yoruba religion. The Orishas are interesting mythological figures to read about, and I think they lend themselves well to a world of magical shenanigans. The book was quite long, by middle-grade book standards, but I never found myself bored with the story, and it was always easy to get back into it. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator, Nekia Renee, did a fantastic job, or at least, she did to my ears. There are not only Yoruba phrases in this one, but there are varying levels of accents that she performed very well, while telling TJ’s story in a way that I thought was really enthralling. I turned this one on and just listened for hours at a time, which is always a good thing. The audiobook also had all kinds of samples and music and effects that went a long way to turning it from just a story into a performance, without making it a dramatization. It was very well done, and I would recommend the audiobook to anyone who is into audiobooks. If you’re into YA magical shenanigans, this book is definitely for you. I enjoyed my time with it, quite a lot. I had 7.75/10 stars of fun with The Gatekeeper’s Staff, and I recommend it to anyone interested in magical academy stories, or West African mythology.

  26. 4 out of 5

    LaShawn Ross

    This YA novel is one that I enjoyed as an OA (old adult). I agreed to read this book for an honest review because I loved the premise, and I’m glad I did. TJ Young is trying to find his way in the world not just as a young Black man, but also as a Diviner who has yet to come into his powers. He is the middle child in a family where, because he hasn’t yet come into his powers, he feels ignored and somehow less important in the grand scheme of things. After tragedy strikes, TJ begins to come into This YA novel is one that I enjoyed as an OA (old adult). I agreed to read this book for an honest review because I loved the premise, and I’m glad I did. TJ Young is trying to find his way in the world not just as a young Black man, but also as a Diviner who has yet to come into his powers. He is the middle child in a family where, because he hasn’t yet come into his powers, he feels ignored and somehow less important in the grand scheme of things. After tragedy strikes, TJ begins to come into his own unexpectedly and is sent to a camp for young diviners to hone his powers. At Camp Olosa, he begins to use what he is learning about magic and the Orisha to guide him as he embarks on a search for answers with the help of his new found friends. On his journey he discovers the meaning of the adage, “The Orishas aren’t good or bad, they just are” while discovering many truths about himself in the process. Rich in Yoruban mythology and African-American culture, the author does a fantastic job in painting a picture of a young, African-American boy navigating two cultures in an authentic way, but always with pride and respect. It’s a beautiful introduction to Yoruba culture for young readers because it never feels clumsy or overdone, even when reading the incantations the diviners are weaving in Yoruba. Although the story is predictable and formulaic at times (since there truly are no new ideas), it was still an energetic and pleasing read. It’s a story of hope, and of family, and embracing the struggle. The characters were evolved enough for this story, but there is still room for them to grow, and I appreciate that. It’s the first book in a series, and I will definitely be reading the next books to find out what happens. Things are not always what they seem in the world of the diviners, and I’m looking forward to the new twists and turns in TJ’s journey. As an aside, I read the short story ("Will of the Mischief Maker") that is a prequel of sorts to The Gatekeepers Staff. I would recommend reading it first for context. It's not necessary for story comprehension, but it definitely enhances the story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anna Jefferson

    This was an amazing read!!!!! The Gatekeeper's Staff (TJ Young & The Orishas #1) Is a fun Ya story about a young boy named TJ Young, who never grew up with what he felt like, is real, magical powers, despite it running in his family, LITERALLY. I loved his interactions with his parents, and how he at first just accepts he'll only be a 'lucky charm' able to guess just the right pattern or movement as it's happening to help his recess basketball team win; when his life takes a turn for the worst. This was an amazing read!!!!! The Gatekeeper's Staff (TJ Young & The Orishas #1) Is a fun Ya story about a young boy named TJ Young, who never grew up with what he felt like, is real, magical powers, despite it running in his family, LITERALLY. I loved his interactions with his parents, and how he at first just accepts he'll only be a 'lucky charm' able to guess just the right pattern or movement as it's happening to help his recess basketball team win; when his life takes a turn for the worst. When ill-fated events befall the Young family, TJ becomes obsessed with understanding how it could happen to them, and decides he wants to bear the weight of a legacy he never imagined he would exist. The fun, mystery solving, camp adventures TJ goes through is a high pace, urban fantasy rollercoaster full of friendship, budding teen romance and magic that makes all of TG'S too much to put down for too long! From the amazing descriptions that play out like a movie in one's mind, to the stunning details of how magic feels like it's being pulled from one's very body; to the vibrant culture and colors that make up TJ's world makes, The Gatekeeper's staff a MAJOR recommended read; and that's not even talking about how much dedication is put into a world where Diviners are real, magic exists, and Orishas play a major spiritual part into everyday affairs! Personally, I loved learning and researching everything I came upon in the book, and opened up a new appreciation and love for Yoruban language, culture, food and spirituality; whereas before I only had passing knowledge, The Gatekeeper's Staff pushed me into the deep end of needing more information about the Orishas and the beautiful Yoruban colorful culture and style in my real everyday life! I wish we had more books focused on West African tales and Mythologies, but for anyone who asks for more stories with Orishas and African American leads, this will be one of my top recommendations! I can't wait to read about TJ's next adventure!

  28. 4 out of 5

    bee

    TJ Young feels like a failure. His older sister is one of the most famous and gifted diviners in the world, his younger brother is basically a genius, and his mom's powers have continued in strength. Comparatively, TJ is normal, his powers are virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, after his sister dies, TJ is lost. He decides the only way he can properly honor his sister is to uncover what really happened to her. This leads him to Camp Olosa in New Orleans. The camp is meant for people like TJ, TJ Young feels like a failure. His older sister is one of the most famous and gifted diviners in the world, his younger brother is basically a genius, and his mom's powers have continued in strength. Comparatively, TJ is normal, his powers are virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, after his sister dies, TJ is lost. He decides the only way he can properly honor his sister is to uncover what really happened to her. This leads him to Camp Olosa in New Orleans. The camp is meant for people like TJ, those with little to no magical powers. He has no idea that this camp will lead him on a journey to secrets much bigger and darker than himself as well as a path to encounter the Orishas (West African gods). Antoine Bandele's book, The Gatekeeper's Staff (Book 1 in the TJ Young and The Orishas series), is seriously attention-grabbing. Critics recommend it for readers who love books like Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and the Harry Potter series. I've always been fascinated by world mythologies, so getting a chance to listen to a book based on the West African Orishas sounded perfect to me. I was not disappointed. Bandele presented a world that is completely engrossing and I wanted more immediately. At first, I was originally thrown off by the world-building, but it eventually all ties together really well. The audiobook was really wonderfully narrated. I loved the moments of ambient noise to show the different locations and the beginnings of the chapter titles. I am so excited to see more of TJ's adventures and see where Bandele takes him. This summer camp-based read was absolutely delightful and I highly recommend it for anyone who has even the slightest interest in mythology. Overall rating: 3.5/5 (rounded up to 4) The Gatekeeper's Staff is available for purchase now. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads shelf and see where it's available for purchase. Also, be sure to check out Antoine Bandele's website! I was lucky enough to be able to listen to this Advanced Reader's Copy through my partnership with NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Adelle

    I've read a couple other books by this author and given them both five stars. So when he offered me this book for review, I was happy to accept. When I read the synopsis I got "Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky" vibes and it definitely has a similar heart and warmth to that book. TJ's grief over the loss of his sister is palpable and powerful. I'm always a fan of the "everyone else in the family has magic powers except me" protagonist and it makes TJ the classic underdog. In general, his I've read a couple other books by this author and given them both five stars. So when he offered me this book for review, I was happy to accept. When I read the synopsis I got "Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky" vibes and it definitely has a similar heart and warmth to that book. TJ's grief over the loss of his sister is palpable and powerful. I'm always a fan of the "everyone else in the family has magic powers except me" protagonist and it makes TJ the classic underdog. In general, his characterization is very realistic. I work in a pretty diverse middle school and I hear Black kids around TJ's age talking in a similar way all the time. The worldbuilding is fairly straight-forward and easy to follow. I would have liked a little bit more on the Keepers and their rhetoric as the resident antagonists, but there's reason to believe they'll be fleshed out more in future books. I also struggled to remember which domain each of the Orisha's oversaw. But considering the fact TJ also struggled with it, that might have been the author's intent. There were some moments around the middle where it felt like the plot meandered a little. Yes, TJ had a goal in going to the camp that he did some amount of work to get towards, but it felt more slice-of-life than anything. Fortunately, I loved the storyline with TJ's crush and the general improvements that he was making in his abilities that the lull didn't take away from my enjoyment. Just be aware that the book isn't super fast paced plot wise. The ending, however, WAS fast-paced and had giant ramifications that I loved. Without spoiling too much, there were several sweet moments, several tense moments, and a giant quest set up at the end. No clue how they're going to "do the thing" by the deadline, but I'm intrigued to find out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Naya

    There’s two things I will always adore: magical school tropes, and #ownvoices stories. If you love these too, or know a BIPOC kid who will, you’ll absolutely love TJ Young and the Orishas. I literally couldn't put this down. TJ Young and the Orishas is an electric YA series that explores Yoruba tradition and is crafted especially for those who love adventure and magic. When we meet our protagonist, TJ, he is an awkward teenager with an inability to practice the magic - despite nearly everyone aro There’s two things I will always adore: magical school tropes, and #ownvoices stories. If you love these too, or know a BIPOC kid who will, you’ll absolutely love TJ Young and the Orishas. I literally couldn't put this down. TJ Young and the Orishas is an electric YA series that explores Yoruba tradition and is crafted especially for those who love adventure and magic. When we meet our protagonist, TJ, he is an awkward teenager with an inability to practice the magic - despite nearly everyone around him being able to. When his older sister - someone who exists like the sun in TJ’s life - dies under mysterious circumstances, TJ fights to uncover the truth surrounding her death and, in doing so, discovers his own power. From here, TJ finds himself enrolled at Camp Olosa - a place for diviners to learn about and practice their magic. Equipped with new knowledge, new companions, and a deep love for his sister, TJ embarks on a journey for answers. With a cast of expertly crafted characters, and an extraordinary world built around them, Bandele has cultivated a tale I can’t help but recommend. While enjoyable for all readers, my heart lights up at the notion of Black kids having access to a story truly written for them, with Yoruba tradition and Black cultural references woven into the foundation of this book. This is a story of family, friendship, and overcoming, that also touches on difficult themes of grief and loss. TJ is exactly the kind of hero every kid needs. Relatably awkward, fun, and learning how to find his inner power, in both magical and non-magical ways. 5 Stars for The Gatekeeper’s Staff!

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