“Escapes aren’t all that bad.”
A good adventure book needs a lot of things; a detailed back story, believable characters and settings that really make you feel as if you’re there – these are really important in my opinion. I picked up Black Volta, not really knowing what to expect, but was very surprised with how quickly it drew me in and captivated my mind. This is an adventure that everyone needs to read!
Black Volta by Pete K.J follows the alternating story of Carlos and Liz. Carlos has a lot of baggage and returns to Wa, Ghana to finally put an end to his guilt. Liz is a successful woman living in the states, but is living unknowingly as a slave for her mother and siblings. Their lives cross as they’re drawn to the Black Volta river. The River knows their secrets, but can it transform their lives again?
The story starts very strongly and places us right in the heart of Puerto Rico. The subtle humour from the start was excellent and it actually gave me a laugh or two, even from the first chapter – for example, one of our MCs seems to be watching his weight, but he also can’t resist the cake! Little comments such as this brought the characters to life, and this character was instantly likeable, even though he was quite opinionated and mysterious. We meet a number of quirky characters, each with their own unique personalities, and it instantly felt like I’d known them forever. A really strong start for the book in my opinion!
We learn Carlos’ back story which is written in a really clever way. Instead of the author simply writing out the things we need to know to get a proper grasp on the story, these facts are portrayed to us through Carlos’ thoughts while he’s out shopping for his essentials. This worked really well, and something so simple yet effective gave us so much information. This information was crucial to really understand our main character and his motives. Carlos understands that he needs to move on from his past, and getting out of Puerto Rico was a good place to start.
Our other MC, Liz, is toying with the idea of traveling. She seems a loving character, who always looks after her mother, sister and son, even though they sometimes don’t seem to appreciate what she does for them. Switching between these two main characters from chapter to chapter worked really well. At this point, we have no idea how their stories would join together, or if they would at all. However, with both Liz and Carlos heading to Ghana, it was clear their stories would have something in common.
“Peaceful. But he didn’t feel it. He would never feel it. Because he’d gotten away with murder.”
We don’t have long to wait and to see whether or not our characters will meet; their initial meeting was done so well and smoothly – I was seriously impressed with how their individual stories came together. I was really excited to find out how dark the story could get and if their stories would slowly come together completely. Could they join forces in Ghana? Would Carlos ever be able to share his secret safely with another?
Carlos and Liz once again travel their separate ways, and again, I was left wanting them to meet once more. It was almost frustrating, but in a good way! There is a lot of mystery as we get into the middle of the story; we still aren’t sure exactly what Carlos has done, yet is it mentioned in passing throughout the book on the odd occasion. This makes us feel more curious about what his next plans are and I really liked how we’re always asking ourselves questions about him. Is he dangerous or trustworthy? Was what he did in the past simply a mistake he’s trying to run from?
The description of Ghana was great – every small detail helped me so much in visualising this beautiful place, and it was very easy to imagine myself in any setting. Everywhere Carlos and Liz travel is very carefully described and it’s clear a lot of research has gone into the book to make it come to life. As well as the setting descriptions, the author also brings each minor character to life too through their descriptions. I can’t fault this, and for me, this is a really important factor of a well written book.
When we finally get to know Carlos’ secret, I was left gobsmacked! I found myself reading the chapter with my mouth open in shock. Something so unexpected really made us understand why it had taken him so long to return to Wa. Would going back be the best thing for him? Would anyone know his secret, or recognise him when he returned? Even though what he did was awful to read, I loved how dark the book got so quickly, and it was interesting to continue with the story after reading this scene. It makes us look at Carlos in a whole different light and question his motives even more.
“Only through surrender could there be redemption.”
Carlos searches Wa for a certain family, but is unsure what to do if he does find them. Does he clear his conscience and admit to what he’s done, or does he stay in the shadows and help the family in some other way? Even though he’s a murderer, we do feel sorry for him due to the way the story has been written; I thought this was extremely clever! One of the things I was curious about once again however, was how Liz fitted into the picture. Despite what I had thought about Liz in the beginning of the story, I now had the feeling she or her family had something to do with the family Carlos was searching for. I was very excited to see if any of my theories were right as we came to the end of the book!
Carlos’ memories of his past begin to get mixed with the present day, creating an impressive build up to the book’s finale. His visions of the Black Volta river bring up more questions for the reader, and the more he sees and dreams about this place, the more apparent it is that he needs to go there before he leaves Wa for Puerto Rico once more. What will he find there? Why is this place appearing in his dreams and what else is Carlos hiding?
Liz eventually finds out some information about Carlos’ past which forces him to flee. He’s concerned, but goes about life as normal, enjoying his time in Wa before his return home. Liz also has a realisation and goes through a scary ordeal which makes her think about her life in a different light, and even drives her to the unthinkable. Watching Liz’s life hang in the balance was a terrifying and nail biting ordeal, and what is going through her mind could be very relatable for some readers.
There is a heartwarming end to the story where Carlos finds a new form of happiness, and even attempts to put things right with the people who matter. Liz also goes out of her way to make the most of her life from then on. Throughout the story, we’ve seen these characters grow and followed their thought processes leading to these moments, which I thought had been written and portrayed very well. Will the consciences of both of these characters now be clear?
“It was as if the river had known he was coming, and left him in peace last night.”
As we feel the story draws to a happy, positive close for all the characters, we’re hit with another surprise. I wasn’t sure what I thought of the ending, but it did work, and brought a little peace and closure to many characters in the book. The ending seemed to answer a lot of questions and I felt like it had been concluded well. I wonder if there’d be some room for a sequel!
A beautiful story with a dark twist, Black Volta explores the culture of Ghana and the lives of two very different people searching for different things. This story is written well with flawless description and relatable characters who, at times, go through stressful, frustrating situations to reach their end goals. This story will definitely stick with me for some time and Pete K.J is a very talented author, with an incredible, engaging writing style. I look forward to reading more of his work in future!
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