It may not be the best sign when the summary of a book on the back cover is more informative about plot and character than what’s in-between the covers. Iyanu has an interesting premise in that it’s based on Yoruba culture and lore; thankfully the story involves some local language (translated), and a small section of notes addressing the historical and mythological basis. Without these, this is a bland fantasy coming of age story. The orphan develops mysterious powers (chosen one, anybody?), a mentor who knows more than she’s telling, ambitious politicians (cue the bad-guy theme music), a vague quest, and the good guy politician who’s totally going to be caught up in the ugliness that’s certainly coming up tells you most of what you need to know about the plot. Once Iyanu has to run away from home due to being surrounded by bad guys, she soon learns how naïve she is about the problems in her world, and given that she has powers that are several times recognized as those of “The Chosen”. It’s pretty obvious what’s coming in future volumes, at least in a general way: the Chosen one must both master her power and not get caught by the secular powers after her in order to defeat the mystical force causing the ‘Corruption’ of the wilds.
Honestly, the decent politician is probably the most interesting character, and he’s not the protagonist. That’s probably because from Ambassador Uwa and his interactions, you get most of the information about the world; maybe not all, since Iyanu’s mentor Olori explains some of the mystical/lore-based things to her, or at least hints at their existence or importance.
Even the art, which is pretty, is a little generic. People have individual face, the natural world has some definition, but Iyanu’s glowing eyes when her powers activate and the blur in some of the action scenes and the use of shadow that can obscure edges or corners all seem like I’ve seen that before.
Individually, nothing is bad, but all together it’s not terribly exciting or interesting either; when a side character is the one you want to see more of over the heroine, that might be a little problem.