Descendants of Fire & Water

Descendants of Fire & Water
Publisher Name
Keylight Books
Age Range
Release Date
December 05, 2023
What would the world be like if Africa had never been colonized—and if the transatlantic slave trade had never happened? 
The only daughter among five brothers, Essien was raised in a village where women are bred to tend to their husbands and bear children. One night, after she is led by akukoifo—mythical beings of Alkebulan folklore—to a fabled river, Essien emerges from the waters with superhuman abilities: hands that burn with the flames they contain, and the strength to overpower any of the men around her.

Unsure of what this newfound power means, Essien returns to an unfamiliar world a changed woman. And when militant rebels destroy her father’s fields, leaving him crippled for life, Essien is left with no choice but to defy the social conventions of her upbringing and become the first woman to enlist in Alkebulan’s formidable military. Without the presence of her family and friends, surrounded by fellow soldiers who want her dead and powerful forces that seek to manipulate Essien’s inner magic for evil, Essien must learn to control and harness her new powers, even as she fights her destiny to become her country’s long-awaited goddess. But not everything is as it seems. Will Essien step into her destiny as Goddess of Alkebulan, or will she make a decision that will alter the course of Alkebulan history forever?

Fueled by ancestral magic and the power of gods on earth, Descendants of Fire & Water is the thrilling first book in the powerful new Essien of Alkebulan series.

Editor review

1 review
Alternative Historical Fantasy
Overall rating
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Descendants of Fire & Water was an interesting first book in the series. It is written around the central question of an alternate Earth where there had never been slaves and the Transatlantic trade. What we call Africa is made up of the unified continent of Alkebulan where there is no racism and the rich African traditions thrived and evolved into modern times ruled under the religious protection of THE MOTHERS.
There is plenty of sexism as the president passes laws that allow women to enter the military against their traditional roles for genders. Essien feels like it is her destiny to join but hides her enrollment for as long as she can from her family afraid of being disowned. The first portion of the book builds on Essien going through military training. This portion was slow-paced as she gained the skills needed to be top of her class. What I think would have helped engage the audience's attention is if more time was spent with Essien interacting with friends or foes. As it was, we advanced through years of training without many details or connections made.
One scene that has stuck in my mind for days after reading is the attention her male counterparts give her. Early in her training, there was a boy who wanted to date her and spread rumors that she was “his girl.” Essien continued to tell him plainly that she was uninterested and they did not have a relationship. She had goals to show everyone that she could be the best and she didn’t want to be distracted and did not want to grow the baby that would lock her out of her dreams forever of being a Soja. The other female recruit chided her for her behavior in making the boy so sad and that she should date him to make him happy. I love Essien’s response that his feelings were not her responsibility. She did nothing to make him have the feelings and he would need to deal with them without her.
There does need to be a trigger warning of a scene of assault and near rape that resulted in Essien killing 3 of her classmates and gaining the attention of the President as she is put on trial for murder. This was a turning point in the book because she finally had more than stoic determination and interactions, we as an audience could latch on to and be there with her as she moved past those events.
The next part of the book adds a bit of mysticism as Essien learns about superhuman powers and that she is on the path to ascending to godhood. She will become the Queen if she joins the President who has even more power than her. She doesn’t trust him and has doubts about his influence on the country and her role in keeping him safe. She is also attracted to him and sees a vision of her godhood that makes it feel inevitable that she will join him. There is a slim chance of escaping this path and forging her own.
Overall, I found the second half of the book hit its stride and did better connecting Essien to others. I am a bit surprised that based on the central question this fabled Alkebulan was not a more peaceful and prosperous land free of colonization. The changes were more subtle in this imagined alternate evolution. From the summary, I expected a mashup vibe of Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and Captain America in this military drama. It was slower to show her powers and it looks like it won’t be until the next book that she will be dealing more with navigating her superhuman powers.

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