Book Review: The Root (Wrath & Athenaeum Book 1) by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

 
 
When Erik's berserker powers awaken, he discovers a whole supernatural side to the world that he never knew existed and, under the training of Matthias, joins other "Blooded" in their fight against monstrous beings from another realm whose attacks and kidnappings are getting more frequent. Meanwhile in another realm, Lil works hard to figure out how to stop the living darkness that's spreading in her world and killing her people.

Book Review: The Root (Wrath & Athenaeum Book 1) by Na'amen Gobert Tilahun | reading, books, book reviews, urban fantasy, lgbt+
Title: The Root
Publisher:
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 420
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher
 

Review:

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

This book was a refreshing, diverse urban fantasy story that managed to stand out while still capturing the kick-butt, monster-fighting essence that I think many readers look for in the UF genre!

First let’s talk about our protagonist, Erik. In this book, there are people who are Blooded—descendants of old, powerful beings and have powers based on their bloodline. Erik is one such person. He’s a berserker, and a fairly unusual one for how he’s able to think and calculate while fighting instead of just losing himself to the rage. I loved the berserker aspect because it’s a familiar power, but one you don’t see often. I also just liked Erik himself. He was clever and a good person who wanted to help others, but he was still imperfect enough to be realistic.

The other main character was Lil, a human in another realm. I didn’t connect to her quite as much because she was very serious and stoic, but she was smart and capable and hardworking and cared a lot about her siblings and about saving her world from the darkness.

But talking about the characters brings me to my one real issue with this book: too many POVs—twenty in total. Jumping around so much makes it harder for me to sink into a story and to get to know any of the characters well. It was also hard to keep track of whose head I was in sometimes. That being said, some of them were only a page or two out of the entire book, which meant we got more from the main characters. Also, the POVs were clearly separated. So I still thought the book was good; I just think it could’ve been better, and I could’ve connected to the characters more, with fewer POVs. I know I’m not the only one who dislikes too many POVs, but my advice is to not let this stop you from giving the book a chance if it otherwise sounds like something you’d like.

Back to positive things now… there was so much diversity/inclusivity! Two Black main characters, at least one of whom was gay. And there were more POC and queer characters scattered throughout the story and the worlds, including Asian, non-binary, trans, lesbian, bi, and more. I was confused by changing pronouns sometimes (e.g. one character was sometimes ‘they’, sometimes ‘he’, but in that character’s POV it was ‘ze’), but maybe some of them just used multiple pronouns. The story also touched upon things like racism and homophobia.

The world-building for the other realm was unique and interesting with other beings and magic and a different society. I maybe didn’t quite understand everything about it, but I understood enough to enjoy it. I especially loved how not-human some of the beings were. Some were clouds of mist, or tunnels of sand, or a wheel of flesh covered in eyes. Some communicated with smells and other senses rather than any sort of spoken language. And Arel and Jagi’s POV chapters were a surprising hit for me because I loved learning more about their… species? Like how they had openings on their body where they could extend or retract tentacles, and they could communicate with each other in a more nuanced and private way by entwining their tentacles with each others’. The world-building for our world was cool too with different characters having different powers.

As for the plot, it had some of the action and fight scenes you’d expect, but it was more about Erik coming into his powers and learning about the supernatural, Lil navigating the dangerous political landscape of the Ruling Courts while trying to find a way to stop the deadly darkness, and various other characters and their plans and machinations.

Overall, though I did have an issue with too many POVs, I loved the diversity, the creativity of the magic and creatures, and the refreshingly different urban fantasy story, and I feel invested enough that I want to continue the series!

 
 

Book Blurb

A dark, gritty urban fantasy debut set in modern-day San Francisco, filled with gods, sinister government agencies, and worlds of dark magic hidden just below the surface.

When a secret government agency trying to enslave you isn’t the biggest problem you’re facing, you’re in trouble.

Erik, a former teen star living in San Francisco, thought his life was complicated; having his ex-boyfriend in jail because of the scandal that destroyed his career seemed overwhelming. Then Erik learned he was Blooded: descended from the Gods.

Struggling with a power he doesn’t understand and can barely control, Erik discovers that a secret government agency is selling off Blooded like lab rats to a rival branch of preternatural beings in ’Zebub—San Francisco’s mirror city in an alternate dimension.

Lil, a timid apprentice in ’Zebub, is searching for answers to her parents’ sudden and mysterious deaths. Surrounded by those who wish her harm and view her as a lesser being, Lil delves into a forgotten history that those in power will go to dangerous lengths to keep buried.

What neither Erik nor Lil realize is that a darkness is coming, something none have faced in living memory. It eats. It hunts. And it knows them. In The Root, the dark and surging urban fantasy debut from Na’amen Tilahun, two worlds must come together if even a remnant of one is to survive.

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  1. Greg

    Yay for diversity, boo to the POV count lol. 20- wow. That’s too many. I read a book like that once, where there were just a TON, and it didn’t kill the book but it was a lot of perspectives to deal with. Glad this was mostly good though, and certainly sounds unique and dark. The other realm sounds really different and imaginative too.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Same, it didn’t kill the book, but it was still way too many and would’ve been better with fewer. But I did enjoy the uniqueness and the diversity!

  2. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    This sounds like a step above the usual UF fare – even though the 20 POV’s is a bit much. I love dual POV, and sometimes multiple POV, but 20 iseems like way too many. The range of characters is pretty amazing… and the beings certainly run the gamut (cloud mists, tunnel of sand… too cool!).

    1. Kristen Burns

      20 POVs was a bit much, agreed, but the book really did manage to stand out which is getting harder for me since I read so much UF. And the non-human beings were so interesting!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was! I loved the diversity. I get confused easily too lol, so the beginning was a bit difficult, but I eventually was able to remember all the characters!

      1. Karen

        I’ve read some with one page (Certain Dark Things was like that) and in that case it adds a perspective and doesn’t bother me. It’s when I actually have to keep track of 20 pov’s lol

        1. Kristen Burns

          When it’s so brief, it just makes me feel even more like it wasn’t necessary, but yeah it’s worse when there are too many repeated POVs that you have to keep track of and that are detracting from the main ones.

  3. Tori @ InToriLex

    This sounds good. But 20 POv’s is absolutely insane. I’m glad the author had enough skill to make it worth. This is one of the few Urban Fantasy’s with diversity I’ve seen though so I may pick it up one day (screams intenally remembering my huge tbr).
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. Kristen Burns

      20 is too many, I agree. But I am also glad that it still ended up being a good book! It helped that some of the POVs were so brief because it allowed more page time for the rest. But the diversity was great!

  4. Gayathri

    First of, I love your blog design. I may have commented that earlier as well. And this is a detailed review as usual. Though this is not my kinda book, your review has piqued my interests. Will check it out.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Aww, thank you!!! I don’t have a great memory, so you can compliment my blog as many times as you want, haha. Everyone has diff taste! But I hope you enjoy this one if you do decide to try it :-)

  5. Crystal @ Lost in Storyland

    I haven’t read a diverse UF recently. The world building in The Root sounds fantastic, and I love how there’s a berserker. I agree that it isn’t one we see often. That said, twenty POVs is intimidating. I haven’t seen that many even in books that are almost twice the length of this one.

  6. Lola

    This does sound like a pretty unique read with lots of diversity. Berserker is such a familiar concept, but I cna’t think of many books that actually did something with it, so that sounds interesting the main character was a beserker. And that sounds nice how he was still imperfect enough to be realistic.

    And wow 20 pov’s that is a lot. I used to really love books with many pov’s when I was younger, but nowadays I prefer less different point of views as that way you get to know each character better. But it sure depends on the book how much pov’s is too many. Good to know the pov’s were clearly separated, that’s so important in books with a lot of point of views.

    I really like the sound of the world building and the non human beings. It is difficult to find non human beings that are well done in books. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was! And you know how I like uncommon supernatural stuff, like berserkers :-P

      It was a lot, and I prefer fewer too, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been here. I still enjoyed it.

      I love when other beings are super not-human because I feel like that makes sense. Because why would beings from other realms or planets be just like us?

      Thanks!

  7. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    Wow, 20 POVs? That’s the only thing that would make me hesitant about reading this book because every other aspect of it sounds great. I’m glad to see your 4 star rating in spite of all of the POVs though.

  8. Olivia Roach

    Oh man, 20 points of view is just a little bit too many for me to manage myself xD I would NOT be able to keep up with it. I thought Game of Thrones had a lot… But then at the same time the diversity in this one sounds so good and world building and me are just so compatible. I love that they have the not-human essence. It’s a tendency for authors to make other worldly creatures have human elements because it makes them just that much easier to write… Oh, and the action sounds good too. I might take your advice and try it despite the POVs.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was definitely a lot, but most of them only briefly came and went once or twice, so you didn’t have to keep up with them too much. It was just unnecessary, I thought. But the world-building was interesting, and the diversity was great! Authors do often make creatures from other realms and planets basically human, so I always think it’s cool when they really go all out with the non-humans!

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    How many POVs??? That’s insane and one of the things I hate most. Stick to a few and folks will be able to cope but too many and you just get hella confused. I won’t let that put me off because I do think the premise sounds good and I am interested by the characters, they sound like I’d like them and so this will be hopping onto my TBR and hopefully I’ll get to read it some time soon

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, it was a lot. I don’t like a lot of POVs either. But some of them were only like a page in the whole book, which meant you didn’t really have to keep track of them, but it also made them seem all the more unnecessary. I’m glad you might take my advice and still give it a try though!

  10. verushka

    As good as this sounds, the thought of 20 POVs is a bit much for me to take. I just finished a book like that, and it was exhausting.

  11. Cee Arr

    POV switches have to be v. jarring before I even notice they’re there, but I get that you don’t like too many POVs! :) (That’s a warning btw, if *I* complain about the POVs, there is v. little chance you’ll like the book I’m talking about! Lol.)

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s one of the cool things about reading, how everyone has different likes and dislikes! So I will keep that in mind if you ever complain about too many POVs lol.