Twelve-year-old Mwikali believes she is cursed with a dangerous power which makes bad things happen. Whatever she draws seems to come true, and she has come to think of her sketchbook as a dangerous weapon. When she moves to a new school, she decides to try to blend in – just like a chameleon. Although this doesn’t go according to plan, a group of three children soon make contact with Mwikali and tell her that she isn’t making things happen, she is predicting them. She is an ‘Intasimi’, born with a supernatural gift, in her case to see the future and also to be able to identify the monsters who walk among the people on Earth, one of these being her unpleasant teacher Mrs Amdany. Her new friends are Intasami too, each with their own special powers. For once Mwikali begins to have a sense of pride in who she is – and feels more confident too.
On Saturday mornings the four children learn more about Intasimi history and have the chance to practice their powers under the guidance of a mentor, Mr Lemayian. As a team of Intasimi warriors they are given a special task, to destroy a powerful ‘Forbidden Mask’ before the Harvest moon when its black magic will release more monsters from the underworld and a threatening villain, the Red Oloibon will take over the world.
The children gather clues as they attempt to find the Forbidden Mask. Mwikali gains extra insights when she is transported back in time, meeting not only her grandmother and great grandmother but also her ancestor Syokimau, one of the most accurate seers in history. Mwikali is given a special heirloom, to help her in her quest – a divining horn.
This is an exciting fantasy adventure – with an urgent mystery to solve and a surprise ending. A range of themes are covered – including the idea that true power comes from believing in yourself, using your skills, learning to trust and cooperate with others.
This book also celebrates Kenyan culture, from ancient legend to life in modern Nairobi. The use of some Kikamban vocabulary adds authenticity and depth. There are insights into Kenyan history too, in particular the experience of colonisation. Family and the importance of story in forging links between generations is another thread in the book. This is illustrated when Mwikali’s great grandmother says, ‘My stories are your stories.’
This is an exciting debut novel, and the good news for young readers hungry for more, is that this is the first in a new series about the Intasimi warriors.