Afonja – The Rise by Tunde Leye (pre-release review)



Genre Historical fiction

Blurb “When Alaafin Abiodun Adegolu died, the Oyo Empire was in a slow decline. The provincial chiefs who helped him defeat the tyrannical Bashorun Gaa had grown in power and the Oyo chiefs were more politicians than warriors. So, when the Oyo Mesi selected a provincial prince, Aole Arogangan to ascend the throne of his fathers, they believed they had an Alaafin they could control.

But Aole had different ideas and he sought to restore the glory of the empire and the supremacy of the Alaafin as its emperor. In this however, his ambitions clashed with those of Afonja, the powerful provincial chief of war camp, Ilorin. Afonja had been promised the office of Aare Ona Kakanfo of all the Oyo forces by the Oyo chiefs in order to secure his support for Aole’s ascension. He would stop at nothing to take what he believed was his by right.

Afonja – The Rise is the story of how the clashes of these two men and the intrigue of the others around them transformed what was a slow decline into a race of the empire towards its collapse. In Afonja – The Rise, we tell their stories first as what they were – men and women living their lives, warring, scheming and loving in ways that will be familiar to the reader – beyond their roles as actors in the epic history of the great Oyo Empire.”

Hi guys, so this is our first pre-release review and cover reveal on our blog. We welcome author, Abigail Anaba again to share a guest review on our blog. If you missed her previous guest review, Stay With Me, read it here.


How I found out about the book

The author sent me a pre-release copy and after reading it, we agreed it would be a good idea for me to review it.

About Afonja – The Rise

Afonja – The Rise is a succession story which chronicles the clashes of two men, Aole Arogangan, the provincial prince who becomes Alaafin and Afonja, the powerful, provincial chief of war camp, Ilorin. It also explores the role of the other people around them which transformed what was a slow decline of the Oyo Empire into a race towards the Empire’s collapse. It’s a story of betrayal and how power can have a corrupting influence. The author uses his creative licence to build a fictional story around real people and places.

What I liked about Afonja – The Rise

The characters in this book are well developed. Tunde Leye created relatable characters with very human characteristics. One who stood out for me is Abike, wife of the Alaafin, who used her influence over her husband to get a seat on The Table. You would have to read to find out how that turns out. Another skilfully developed character is Afonja. You meet a man who is kind yet brutal, contented yet seeking accolades, ready to break traditional norms yet a strong believer in culture. He is a paradox. By far my best characters in the story are Labake and her husband, Agbonrin. Maybe because I am an idealist of sorts.

The story started a little slow but soon picked up and became quite addictive. You could read the entire book in one sitting. You may find yourself drawing parallels between the politics in this work of historical fiction and Nigeria of today. Especially how “kingmakers” often make the worst choices in picking a leader to back for their own selfish reasons.

Another thing I liked was how descriptive the writing was. Tunde Leye’s craft has certainly improved from his work, Guardians of the Seal.  He seems to have mastered the art of being descriptive without being overly detailed, painting the picture yet allowing the reader to make good use of their imagination.

Tunde Leye tells the story of the interplay of politics in the old Oyo Empire unapologetically. He tells a compelling story, teasing the reader with suspense filled snippets and intrigues, leaving them wondering how the story will unfold and how all the ends will eventually tie in without leaving huge gullies of plot holes. Leye delivers, and leaves the reader sufficiently curious demanding the next volume…

What I did not like about Afonja – The Rise

I am unsure if the title works. For a book with that title, I feel the book should have been character driven. It wasn’t. Also, although Afonja featured prominently in the book, I was conflicted whether the story was actually about him.

In addition, Tunde Leye made generous use of Yoruba language expressions which may make the text a little difficult to read for those not familiar with the language. I would love to see a glossary at the end of the book.

Finally, I did not like the way the book ended. Perhaps, Tunde was aiming for a cliffhanger, but it did not feel like one. It is one of those books you finish and then check the back cover to see if there are some more pages taped to it.


I would rate Afonja –The Rise 7/10. Although it is a great book that told a unique African story, once the plot started unravelling, it followed a predictable pattern. You knew good should prevail against evil and the author delivered exactly what you may have wished for.

Number of pages 368.

Publisher TLSPLACE Media in collaboration with Masobe Books.

Damage N5,000  for a signed copy delivered any where in Nigeria. If you are in Nigeria, you can order here.

Afonja – The Rise is also available on Amazon.


About Abigail Anaba

 Abigail Anaba

Abigail Anaba is a research enthusiast who writes literary fiction peppered with historical and political realities and a dash of romance. Her journalistic writings and commentaries on politics, education and women’s issues have featured in several online publications including Ynaija, TheScoopNG and NewsWireNGR. She enjoys debates on history and gender and is always ready to challenge the status quo. Her debut novel, SectorIV explores love and loss during the Nigeria/Biafra war. Her second book, Switching Play tackles feminism and government’s negligence of sports heroes.

Abigail is a mother of three teenage boys.

You can contact her at or through her Twitter @Anabagail. Abigail also has a blog.



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