The Blackened, by Alexey Kapustin (Book Review)

The blackened by Alexey Kapustin book image


Alexey Kapustin made me feel like a stow away who was found out and drowned in the ocean of expectations.

Inspired by a true story, The blackened is a tale of an orphaned Nigerian teen and his dream for a better future beyond his bleak existence in Africa. 

Just this premise and anyone would be dying to read the book. The world-building was perfect, instant, and the feeling of sailing with the crew of the Emeralda cannot be escaped. At some point, I felt this intimacy of seafare is what is missing in Marvin Abe's Voyage of Saints. 

One would expect that the sea voyage that opens this tale is merely a buildup to the touching, harrowing story that is to come. But this unique story, unfortunately, fell flat for me. 

The first half of the book is slow and I almost quit a couple times. What kept me going were the promises of the blurb and my expectations of a sad story that exposes the harsh realities of an orphaned Nigerian teen. However, it wasn't until I have covered about 80 percent of the book that Ade, the supposed orphan, was introduced; even then, the spotlight isn't on him, like he is some minor character. As such, I felt no emotional connection to him.

This is not to say that the characters are not well-formed. They felt very real, but it was difficult to keep track of them. This is partly due to their big number and partly due to the choice of words and the way they are stringed together, which makes the book a little bit difficult to read.

Basically, these problems - I believe- would have been avoided if a different point of view (POV) was employed in the narrative. The use of peripheral first person POV (the chief in this case), I suppose, limited the reach of the author. So Alexey was unable to really explore the themes that would have made the story compelling. I believe the story would have come out better with the omniscient third person POV or the traditional first person POV.

In spite of all these, the book is still worth the reader's while and I do hope that the finished edition comes out better than this, because the author has opened up a lot of expectations that is capable of making this book a best seller. For sailors, it is a very good way to relive the experiences of seafare. For words left unsaid and emotions left unfed, I'd give it a 2 out of 5.

Note: This book was given to me as an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review.


Author: Alexey Kapustin

Genres: Action / Adventure, African Fiction, and Novellas

Publication Date: January 15, 2022

Page Length: 100 pages

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