Lies of the Ajungo (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Lies of the Ajungo

4 stars

The Lies of the Ajungo is a short fantasy novella. The premise is that in the parched desert City of Lies, all thirteen year olds have their tongues cut out in order to satisfy the Ajungo who trade back a pittance of water. The almost-thirteen child Tutu chooses the alternative option, which is to set off into the desert alone on a hopeless quest to find another water source for the city. There he finds friends, betrayals, and plenty of truths.

For me, the crux of this story revolves about the power of narrative, which makes me excited to see that there is going to be a follow-up novella set in the future where (if I am reading the blurb correctly) the events of this book appear to be misconstrued.

I felt like there was a lot of good worldbuilding and character development packed into this novella, and I love love loved the three cousins and the way they care for Tutu. If I have any complaint, it's that I feel like some of the magical elements here (non-spoilery handwaving) felt rushed in both plot and character development and I wish that had been taken more slowly or handled differently.