The Lies of the Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi – ARC Review!

They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies?

In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city. Thus begins Tutu’s quest for the salvation of his mother, his city, and himself.

The Lies of the Ajungo is a story about the dangers of not questioning those in power & the dangers of believing something because you have been told it’s the truth. There is no water in the City of Lies, that is what Tutu has been told his whole life, and the citizens of the City of Lies have been told for centuries. A people called the Ajungo have water, but they asked for something in return, when any citizen of the city turns thirteen they have their tongue cut out. Tutu is about to turn thirteen, and has spent his childhood watching his mother waste away, making sure he receives the majority of their water rations, and he has had enough. He decides to journey into the desert to find water, but what he finds instead shows the truth behind the city of lies, and Tutu is more than willing to tell the truth.

Tutu was a brilliant character. Someone so young shouldn’t have to deal with the things he does, but this is the reality for so many around the world which added a realness to the story. He is naive, and at thirteen you can’t really blame him, he trusts those in power blindly, and risks himself to go into the desert to try and find more water for his people. As the story goes on, he really grows as a character, loosing his childish naivete and becoming wise beyond his years, but he still carries a weight that shoulders that young should not have to carry, and his story is not a truly happy one.

The story kind of borrows from the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil mantra, and the author does a fantastic job of bringing this to life in his story. It reads almost like a fable, and if you’re expecting a boy venturing off to fight dragons & demons and return victorious to his people you would be wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there are battles and plenty of exciting scenes, but the story is not an overly joyous one. Rather the story of a boy whose eyes become opened to the world around him, to the greed and danger and reality of the world as it is.

Despite this being a novella, Utomi still manages to fit in a depth of world and character building that had be glued to the pages. On his journey to bring water back to his people, Tutu meets up with multiple other characters from other cities in the desert, characters that start his questioning to the truth behind the city of lies and characters that he forges a bond with, despite what little time he spends with them. Utomi’s writing style propels the story along at a breakneck speed and carries the characters along with it, and the only issue I had with it was Tutu’s growth, both physically and mentally seemed overly rushed. I didn’t feel like we truly got to see his development, and I would have liked a little more time to see him grow.

If you’re looking for a quick read that still packs an emotional punch, I can’t recommend this enough. Utomi has created a world that I would love to spend more time in, and filled it with characters that, despite the little time we spend with them, still manage to worm their way into your heart.

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