Historically, fantasy in literature has been overwhelmingly white – there is rarely space for diverse characters, settings or themes. But Reni is transporting this traditionally homogeneous world to ancient Africa and centering two young, black women as the protagonists – and we are absolutely here for it... There is a stereotype that black people can’t be in to traditionally ‘nerdy’ things like fantasy, mythology or science fiction. But Reni wants to subvert this misconception and reassert that black readers are as capable of having broad, varied, multifaceted interests as anyone else. ‘It is such a shame. I think it is very much tied into this inability to see black people as individuals. As humans, three-dimensional characters who have different tastes and opinions and likes,’ Reni explains... Creating an image of an African kingdom that is steeped in complex mythology, decadence, academic and technological superiority, is a crucial step in redressing the balance and positively altering perceptions. So much of how we see the world is based on the narratives and stories we consume from the mainstream media, books, movies and advertising campaigns. This is something Reni intrinsically understands.
"One Booker shortlist later, Galley Beggar were proved correct. Ellmann’s novel isn’t perfect, and it may not take the prize, but in a world where Ian McEwan is still at large, something introspective and richly painted is a tonic for us all...."
— The Daily Telegraph
4.25 out of 5