Review Blog

Sep 26 2017

Jigsaw of fire and stars by Yaba Badoe

cover image

Zephyr, 2017. ISBN 9781786697981
When a boatload of African refugees is rammed and sunk by people smugglers, Sante's family set her adrift on the sea in a chest containing all their wealth, in the hope that she will survive.
Discovered by Mama Rose and raised as her own alongside two other foundlings Cat and Cobra, Sante grows up in a small Gypsy community, travelling throughout Europe and performing circus tricks for a living.
The youths possess unusual talents. Sante sees the terrible demise of her family in dreams, can sometimes read the thoughts of people and communicates with Triss, an eagle which protects her and does her bidding. Cobra has an affinity with snakes and can charm them to behave as he pleases whilst Cat is an unerring knife thrower.
Sante's family and friends are used to constantly moving to escape the attention of authorities who often chase and harass them. When they realise that the appearance of suspicious men is somehow connected to Sante's dead relatives, their instinct is to remove themselves and disappear, rather than engaging the help of police whom they naturally distrust.
The arrival of the mysterious Scarlett, a young girl of similar age who is clearly traumatised, prompts Sante, Cat and Cobra to remain and assist her against the wishes of their elders. The trio discovers a sinister people smuggling network where adolescents are sold into sexual slavery and they become embroiled in a dangerous and nasty situation.
In order to survive and to attempt to bring the criminals to justice, Sante, Cat and Cobra summon all of their powers, both physical and magical as they navigate a confusing maelstrom of events.
The theme of sex trafficking seems out of place in a story which appears to be written for early teens, however nothing explicit is depicted. The writing style, language and plot developments may not appeal to older readers and the topic seems worthy of a more sophisticated presentation in my view.
Rob Welsh

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