Modern Griots Reviews: Odysella – Empress of Nar

Despite its critics in its early days, Hip-hop as an artistic medium has spread to all corners of the Earth, but could it spread throughout the galaxy? What about world violence against young people? Chicago-author Shirley Hardy-Leonard explores these questions in her latest work, Odysella: Empress of Nar series. The series follows two main leads during the 23rd century, Odysella, a farm girl on the planet Nar who will soon learn of her real royal destiny, and War B, a Chicago rapper on a mission to jump start his career with his hip-hop group, Floss Angeles, on Mars but will find out how this trip changes his destiny, too.

Edited by her son David, Shirley Leonard’s futuristic 57-paged part one of the series pays respect to hip-hop’s past and highlights the ongoing present issues, including violence in Chicago and military coups. Leonard gives a simple-to-read yet craftily interwoven filmic plot in an urban and universal tale; and though some parts of it at times do not fit well in the story, like the use of parentheses or heavy-handed use of a few slang phrases, it is overall a compelling story with both lighthearted moments and serious ones.

One of the story’s characters declares, “There is always someone whose destiny depends on another” and that line points to the book’s theme of aligning oneself to one’s bigger purpose and mission. I am interested to see the evolution of the purpose of these two characters, Odysella and War B, as they learn to work together and lead the way to save the planet Nar and the universe against biological, political, military and economic takeover along with a range of other colorful characters in the next three parts.

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