My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due
By Robert Jeffrey II October 7, 2012
We at Black Sci-Fi.com like to highlight great books that you might have missed when first released or recommend that you read again. Here's one of them:
Beginning with “My Soul to Keep,” Tananarive Due laid the framework of a series which told the story of a secret sect of Ethiopians (the Life Brothers), who were blessed (or cursed) with the gift of immortality, 400 years ago. After many years of strife, and pain, one of the immortals, Dawit (David) Wolde found happiness in present day Miami. With a loving wife, Jessica, and a caring daughter, Kira, Dawit seemed to have found a semblance of peace after a life filled with loss and tragedy. Their idyllic life was soon destroyed, when Dawit’s past finally caught up with him, leading to a heartbreaking, and life changing conclusion for everyone involved.
Continuing with the “Living Blood, and “The Blood Colony” the “African Immortals” series continues to build to an epic apex with “My Soul to Take”. Fast forward to 2016, and things have drastically changed from the suspenseful thriller Due crafted in “My Soul to Keep”. In the near future, the Immortals’ ailment healing property has now become a black market drug called “Glow,” there is dissension within the ranks of the Immortals about what their future spells, and Dawit and Jessica’s second daughter, Fana, is in a race against time to save the world.
This is where the crux of the story mainly takes place, as Fana becomes the center piece of the world spanning events of intrigue and drama. Fana has come a long way from the innocent toddler introduced in “Living Blood.” To some the 18 year old is a telepathic messiah like figure with the ability to heal the infirm, while a large portion of the Life Brothers views her activities as a threat to their very way of life. Following the tumultuous events of “The Blood Colony,” we find Fana and her followers still attempting to spread Glow to the masses, against the disapproval of her fellow Immortals, U.S government, and her soon to be husband, fellow immortal Michel.
Michel believes that a cleansing of the human race is imminent, and he is doing his best to bring about this “Apocalypse” through releasing a killer virus. Michel’s telepathic abilities are on par with Fana’s, if not greater, making it that much more difficult for Fana to complete her task of healing the world. Bringing in characters from her novel “Joplin’s Ghost” into this epic, and familiar faces such as Dawit, Jessica, and Life Brother Mahmoud, Due crafts a story where the stakes have never been higher.
With every successive book in this series Due has continued to build, and build on her mythology in such a way that in “My Soul to Take” longtime fans are treated with the proverbial lid being blown off.
One of the things that work well within the story, and a host of other Due works, is her ability to craft stories which delve into the thrilling world of the supernatural, while also giving the tale a touch of realism. Of course you’ve got telepathic immortals, who are either racing to destroy humanity, or save it, but Due doesn’t stop there. In “My Soul to Take,” and in any of the other novels in this series, you’re first provided with a cast of characters who help to flesh out the believability factor of the story.
For example, you’ve got Jessica & Dawit, who are grappling simply with how best to care for a daughter, who is being beset by the world at large, while also becoming a woman. And then there’s Fana and Michel.
Michel, though by the time the story ends might top any list of being one of the most evil individuals ever written, is himself a complex character. Though he’s definitely hell bent on destroying mortals to fulfill his twisted ideology, Due doesn’t just paint him in shades of pure evil. We find a character that has been corrupted by the twisted teachings of his father, whose hoping to avoid harming Fana as his father did his mother before him. We see a character in pain, physically, and mentally, who is doing what he feels is best to cure the world of its ills. No where is this conflict best on display than in Chapter 27, where Fana goes to see if she can speak some reason to her soon to be husband. These few pages highlight Due’s well written crafting of this tortured character, while providing further insight into the duo’s emotionally complex relationship.
In Fana, Due has done readers a great service. From her introduction in the second installment of the series (or the first, to be technical), Fana has always been “special”. The creation of the union of an Immortal (Dawit) and one who had been given immortality through the “Living Blood” (Jessica) Fana soon became a powerful telepath with the ability to heal, and to also take life. Throughout the series she’s grown from a toddler, to the woman now shown in “My Soul to Take.” Hoping to still save the world, she realizes that a direct assault through the proliferation of Glow and her healing abilities is not the answer in light of her upcoming arranged marriage. So rather than going toe to toe with Michel, Fana decides to take the diplomatic route, in the hopes of swaying Michel to her side of thinking.
We see that this creates a tumult of sort within Fana, and we empathize all the while hoping that someone can save the day, or that Fana will simply just fight Michel, through the course of the book. That’s not to be the case, as Fana realizes that things are not as clear cut as she may want them to be. This is where Due excels with Fana, in that rather than taking the easy way out of having Fana kick butt, and save the day like we figure she can do, she anchors her heroine down with this psychological weight, of sorts.
Moving from Ethiopia to Nogales, Mexico Due crafts a globetrotting story which gives readers a sense of truly being in these locales. Combining a healthy dose of action, drama, and crisscrossing agendas of all involved, the plot never plods along, which helps to keep this as a great page turner.
All in all, “My Soul to Take” is an epic addition to the “African Immortals” series, and newcomers and longtime fans alike won’t be disappointed.
Robert Jeffrey II is an award-winning Atlanta-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Ja Dore magazine, The Atlanta Voice newspaper, and Urban Voices In Comics. When he’s not ranting and raving about comic books, he’s actually writing them. Check out http://www.terminusmedia.com/ for his comic book story, Daddy’s Little Girl, featured in the anthology, Terminus Tales Presents #1: Platypus vs. Monkey.” Robert can also be found at http://robertspageofwriting.blogspot.com/.