Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans

(Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans, Book 1)
Published by Balzer + Bray
Published by Usborne in the UK

Available September 19, 2023

Life is tough for twelve-year-old orphan Adia. Her aunt and uncle believe she’s an ogbanje, a demon-possessed child that brings misfortune wherever they go, and Adia can’t disagree—especially when she suddenly manifests mysterious powers that she can’t control, causing an earthquake in her village.

So when Adia is offered a kitchen apprenticeship at the faraway Academy of Shamans, she flees with nothing but a pouch of change, her cat Bubbles, and the hope that someone there can figure out what’s wrong with her—and fix it. But just as she’s settling in, Adia stumbles upon a shocking secret. Darian, the emperor, really is possessed, by a demon more wicked than any other. And he’s on his way to the Academy for a visit.

Joining forces with a snarky Goddess, a 500-year-old warrior girl, and an annoying soldier-in-training, Adia must travel through hidden realms to exorcise Darian and save her kingdom. But to succeed, she first must come to understand the mysterious powers inside her….


Hendrix’s awe-inspiring debut novel is a truly masterful addition to the afrofantasy genre. Hendrix intertwines the cultural richness of African mythology with the visceral history of colonization in a package that will entice middle-grade readers. Her universe interrogates both fantastical and realistic conflicts with equal care. This immersive fantasy, the start of a planned trilogy, deserves to be on every shelf. 

Booklist (starred review)

This book is incredible! With a dazzling cast of characters wrapped up in a rich, imaginative afrofantasy world, Adia’s thrilling journey will have you eager to turn the next page!” — B.B. Alston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Amari and the Night Brothers

“Deep, piercing, and urgent, Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans marries historic heft with the soaring possibilities of magic to tell a spellbinding story of empowerment and liberation. Author Isi Hendrix makes a passion-packed entrance onto the middle grade stage, and readers of all ages will do well to pick up this first entry in a powerful new fantasy series.” — Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series.

“With heart and humor, Adia Kelbara is a tale of victory for anyone who’s been made to feel ashamed of who they are. Not only does Adia prove that our power can be reclaimed, she takes us on a rollicking fun adventure along the way.” — Graci Kim, New York Times bestselling author of the Gifted Clans trilogy

“By turns immersive, thrilling, funny, and powerful, Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans will grab readers from the first lines to the breathtaking finale. Readers will fall in love with Adia and root for her fierce quest to right the wrongs done against her people.” — Sylvia Liu, award-winning author of Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

“An immersive, funny, clever fantasy with real emotional depth. I couldn’t put it down!” — A.F. Steadman, New York Times bestselling author of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief

Adrenaline-fueled action and inventive worldbuilding personify this captivating Afrofantasy, a series-starting debut by Hendrix. Orphan Adia Kelbara lives with her neglectful aunt and uncle, who publicly claim that she is an Ogbanje—a child possessed by a demon said to cause misfortune—which leads to her becoming locally ostracized. She starts to believe them, though, when she suddenly develops mysterious abilities, as when an intense emotional reaction results in tremors erupting across her hamlet. Witnessing the destruction wrought by her burgeoning powers, Adia determines to find help in harnessing—or removing—her perceived curse. When she is selected to spend her Year of Practicality, during which youths train in a trade, as a kitchen apprentice at the famed Academy of Shamans, she hopes that a resident can extract the Ogbanje. But nothing is as it should be upon her arrival: the school has fallen into disarray and an ancient evil has returned to wreak havoc. Fully fleshed out characters—including a snarky goddess and several effervescent allies—populate this clever adventure, which teems with smartly rendered twists and oodles of hope and heart.

Publishers Weekly