Akata Warrior: Scores goal after goal as it enhances the series world

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Akata Warrior by Nnedi OkoraforAkata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor fantasy book reviewsAkata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

From its stunning cover to the triumphant final word (“Gooooooooal!”), Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior (2017) continues to deliver on the promise of Book One, Akata Witch. Sunny, an American-Nigerian girl currently living in Nigeria with her family, has embraced her heritage as a Leopard Person, one of a magical lineage, but things to do not get easier for her or for her magical friends, the oha coven. Ekwensu, the evil force that Sunny faced and vanquished in the first book, is back, and she’s brought friends. In the mundane, everyday world, Sunny’s older brother Chukwu, the favored child, gets into serious trouble when he goes away to university, and Sunny’s attempt to help him puts her squarely at odds with the teachings of the Leopard People.

This review may contain mild spoilers for Akata Witch.

The action starts in the first chapter when Sunny, sent by her magical mentor Sugar Cream to gather magically tainted peppers for soup, has a dangerous encounter with a lake beast, a cousin to the river beast that taunts her whenever she crosses the bridge into the land of the Leopard People. She struggles to learn the magical writing system Nsibide so that she can decipher the letter her grandmother left her. Sugar Cream and the coven’s mentor warn her that Ekwensu may have been defeated but she is not gone. While Sunny is finding her place in the everyday world, excelling at soccer and exhausting herself trying to read Nsibide, her two magical friends Chichi and Sasha are up to some kind of mischief. The two older students are more advanced than Sunny and Orlu, but they are also amoral, and they take serious risks. Some of those risks rebound on them in this book, but this time around it’s Sunny who violates the rules and takes the biggest risk of all when her older brother Chukwu gets drawn into a confraternity while at university.

Confraternities are a real thing, and many of them are violent gangs. The one that has its hooks into Chukwu certainly is. Sunny risks revealing herself to the “lamb,” or mundanes, in order to warn the confraternity off her brother. The short section of the book where Chukwu reveals what has happened to him is harrowing (and according to the afterword by Okorafor, accurate).

Sunny must face the consequences, deal with a shocking occurrence that leaves her feeling vulnerable, and ultimately face Udidi, the Great Weaver, the makers of stories and weaver of reality, who is, of naturally, a giant spider.

Book 1

The expansion of the circle of characters to include Chukwu is inspired, and the road trip the teens make to the capital of Lagos is also harrowing, although in a different way. I loved Udidi. I loved the danger Sunny faced in the “well” of the magic library, her punishment for breaking the rules, and I really loved the giant, flying grasscutter creature that Udide weaves for the coven, so that they can fly to the magical city of Osisi. Grashcoatah, as he wishes to be called, probably looks a little bit like this, but he is about the size of a car. Grashcoatah has a definite personality. In some ways he is an innocent, but he has a mischievous streak that he indulges throughout the book… and a mind of his own.

The adventure was compelling and the book deepens and expands the world of magic as well as Sunny as a character. These are “magic school” books, but the approach here is more realistic. I know that seems paradoxical, but the risks are real, and the grownups you respect, who are teaching you, will punish you severely for certain infractions. Even if you aren’t punished, magic is dangerous. Merely being a teacher’s favorite, or coming from a famous bloodline, does not shield you from consequences. At the same time, while Sunny admires Chichi and Sasha for their boldness, she is beginning to see that their behavior is dangerous in itself. In fact, at the end of the book, Chichi is obligated to put something right, and it’s likely that quest will be the plot of the next book. The intersection of the Lamb world and the Leopard world is sometimes funny, but more often heart-breaking, as with the confraternities, or Sunny’s confrontation with a profoundly demented relative of Orlu, who calls Sunny evil because she is an albino.

A book gets five stars from me if it changes how I see things or is so well done that it stays with me for a long time. Akata Warrior does both of these things. Everything that was done well in the first book is richer and deeper here, and I savored the little moments of joy; Sunny’s love of soccer and the fact that she can play it now, and her interactions with her “wasp artist.” I deeply appreciated this book and I look forward to the next one. Like Sunny, Nnedi Okorafor can definitely shout, “Goooooooal!”

Published in 2017. A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity. Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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One comment

  1. Add this series to my already-teetering TBR pile…

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