The Root: A Novel of the Wraith and Athenaeum is the debut novel from Na’amen Gobert Tilahun and the first in a planned trilogy of urban fantasy fare. The book focuses on two troubled teenagers tasked with the arduous task of saving their worlds as they encounter secret government agencies, the forces of magic and a host of supernatural wonders and mythological beings. Erik is an ex-child star whose celebrity career has taken a complicated turn following a scandal which resulted in his ex-boyfriend being imprisoned. To make matters worse, he also learns that he’s a descendant of the gods - a being known as a Blooded - and a corrupt government agency is selling off his kind to an inhuman organization in an alternate dimension.
Elsewhere – in said alternate dimension – Lil is an orphan investigating the mysterious death of her parents, which is connected to a dark history those in power would rather keep hidden. She’s an outsider, segregated in a world where she’s viewed as a lesser being because of her societal status. However, just like her otherworldly counterpart Erik, she must stand up to a looming threat with the power to destroy each of their universes.
As a sprawling fantasy, The Root is a grandiose feat of imagination and cross-dimensional storytelling. It provides the escapist thrills and chills the fantasy genre is built on, and it’s bound tickle the fantasies of those who read stories of this ilk to immerse themselves in mystical adventures. That being said, it’s also a story that’s firmly rooted in human drama, exploring themes such as the nature of race, celebrity, the media and society’s perceptions of sexual orientation, gender and class division. On one hand, it’ll titillate readers who love conspiracy thrillers, epic fantasies and action-packed entertainment; but it’ll also connect with those who have ever felt shunned because they don’t fit in with the status quo. In both regards, The Root is a triumph.
With this novel, Tilahun has laid the foundations for a very promising trilogy. The world building is mightily impressive, but more importantly, its world is inhabited by characters you’ll want to embark on future journeys with. All in all, it’s highly recommended for fans of young adult fiction first and foremost, but you can never be too old to appreciate storytelling this marvellous. If you want excitement and fun, it has it; but it also leaves you with some food for thought to ponder should you choose to. At times dark and gritty, at others uplifting, this is a multi-layered story worth checking out.
THE ROOT: A NOVEL OF THE WRAITH AND ATHENAEUM / AUTHOR: NA'AMEN GOBERT TILAHUN / ARTIST: CHARLIE BOWATER / NIGHT SHADE BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW