Announcing The Lies of the Ajungo and Two Subsequent Novellas From Debut Author Moses Ose Utomi!

Tordotcom Publishing is thrilled to announce a three novella deal with debut author Moses Ose Utomi, the first of which will be The Lies of the Ajungo. The deal was brokered by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret and is set to publish in Winter 2023.

They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies?

In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to the city’s oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city. Thus begins Tutu’s quest for the salvation of his mother, his city, and himself.

Utomi shared his enthusiasm for the project:

Being from two cultures has given me a frustrating relationship with the truth. When so many of the norms and traditions of one culture are considered backward or wrong in the other, which is right? Which is true? In Lies of the Ajungo, sweet, virtuous Tutu also has to sort truth from deceit, except in an epic fantasy world that includes century-long droughts, mysterious evil empires, camel cavalry battles, and brutally destructive magic. It’s a book about thirst–for the truth, of course, but also for water, connection, and revenge–that comes from the very core of my first-generation, Nigerian-American soul. I’m still in disbelief that it means as much to anyone else as it means to me, but Carl, Matt, and the geniuses on the Tordotcom team truly understand what I’m trying to create and are a dream to work with. Can’t wait to bring this book to readers!!

Editor Carl Engle-Laird agreed:

I first read one of Moses Ose Utomi’s short stories in 2018, and I knew right away that I wanted to work with him. A short while later, I attended a party for Fireside at the Kickstarter event space in Brooklyn, and I was delighted to hear him reading from the story I’d loved. As soon as he was done I walked up and introduced myself, and asked him to send me a book. Fast forward to 2021, and The Lies of the Ajungo lands in my inbox. It’s everything I hoped and more, and it’s going to blow you away.

Moses Ose Utomi (he/him) is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer and nomad currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. He has an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and short fiction publications in Fireside Fiction and Purple Wall Stories. When he’s not writing, he’s traveling, training martial arts, or doing karaoke—with or without a backing track.


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