Review Blog

Dec 06 2017

A jigsaw of fire and stars by Yaba Badoe

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Head of Zeus, 2017. ISBN 9781786697981
(Age: 13+) Themes: Magical Realism, African folklore, Human trafficking, Resilience. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a fast-paced present tense narrative told from fourteen year old Sante Williams' point of view. As a baby she was tucked in a treasure-filled sea chest and thrown overboard from a sinking African refugee boat. Sante was rescued by a ragtag bunch of adults who live on the edge of society performing as Mama Rose's circus troupe. Together with Cobra the snake handler, her closest friend and Cat the knife thrower, these children grow up within the confines of a unique close-knit family environment. Sante's companion Priss the golden eagle is her constant friend, a powerful protector in troubled situations. Sante is a mind-whisperer too, she conjures up dreams and memories of the past when she plays on her bamboo flute.
When Sante's musical performance is observed by two mysterious characters, Grey Eyes and the African, her life begins to unravel. They seek the treasure from the sea chest and employ unscrupulous measures to capture Sante, her friends and the goods. The rescue of a troubled teenager Scarlett from drowning, soon adds a much darker element to Sante's perilous situation. She is running from a drug and human trafficking ring and Sante, Cat and Cobra join forces to help her. Sante's headstrong ways lead them into many precarious situations, narrow escapes, fleeing across Spanish rooftops, stealing motor scooters as she calls on her spirit guides and eagle Priss for assistance.
Badoe's lyrical novel draws imagery with powerful alliterative descriptions, unusual dream sequences and intuitive scenes. Sante's world is peopled with flawed characters out for their own gain, even those close to her have different agendas. The author takes the young adolescent reader into some topical issues - sexual exploitation, human trafficking, the near-suicide of one character and the killing of refugees by sinking their boats. The main character has a distinct voice, driven by the desire to learn about her heritage. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is an unusual story alternating between action that rushes chaotically and dream sequences that conjure up sensory memories of her past African life.
Rhyllis Bignell

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