Shade Lapite's debut young adult novel, Goddess Crown, is an exhilarating, plot-driven romantic Afro-fantasy.
Kalothia's birth parents fled the royal palace in Galla after being accused of treason against King Osura, and left the newborn Kalothia to be raised in the forest by trusted friends. It is now Kalothia's 16th age-day and she wishes to find her parents. Instead, her village is attacked by masked individuals who have accents akin to those of a rival neighboring country. Kalothia and her devoted pet vervet monkey, Ye-Ye, escape the violence, but the devastated teen is unsure of her next move. That is when Nahir, the young captain of her bodyguards, finds her and tells her King Osura is dead. The news should be welcome, but it's clear that an unknown someone is after her. Kalothia, Nahir, and Ye-Ye begin trekking to the palace in search of answers.
Lapite brings this Afro-fantasy to life through descriptive, lyrical text. The detailed inner workings of each of Galla's four territories, the beautiful garments ("an intricate fusion of black fabric... with lacework so fine it was almost invisible"), and the everyday customs and precepts of life make Galla feel like an actual ancient city. Animal attacks, vicious enemies, court intrigue, and romantic intentions drive the electrifying plot, while Kalothia's strength and courage make for a memorable character. Goddess Crown is a majestic, enlivening adventure that should appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander, and, yes, even Shakespeare. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children