Akata Witch: An exciting, imaginative, and heart-warming story with a unique setting

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor children's fantasy book reviewsAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor children's fantasy book reviewsAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny Nwazue, an albino who needs to stay out of the sun, has always been different from the other kids in her school. When her family returned to Nigeria after living in the United States for most of Sunny’s childhood, she never quite found her place. Her strangeness becomes even more obvious when she sees a vision showing what appears to be scenes from the end of the world.

When Sunny finally makes a few friends, she begins to realize there’s a reason for her strangeness, and that she’s not the only weird kid in town. She finds out that she belongs to the Leopard People, an ancient bloodline that endows its descendants with various magical abilities. As Sunny is initiated into this new family, she learns that she and her friends are part of a prophecy related to her frightening apocalyptic vision. Without much knowledge or skills, Sunny and her friends must confront and take down a serial killer who has been stalking their town.

It seems so trite to compare Akata Witch (2011) to HARRY POTTER, but it’s a fair comparison. Readers who enjoy stories about youngsters who are discovering their special powers, being trained in a special school, and then using their powers to combat evil are likely to enjoy Akata Witch. There’s no need to list them here, but there are a lot of parallels to HARRY POTTER which are hard to ignore once you notice it. (And this may be intentional by Nnedi Okorafor. I have not had the chance to read her own statements about her purposes / influences / intentions when writing Akata Witch.)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

But this doesn’t at all mean that Akata Witch is derivative; it’s not. The Nigerian spin makes this story fresh and unique and Nnedi Okorafor’s personal (rather than studied) familiarity with Nigeria (people, geography, culture, politics, religion) gives her work a rich texture that I found captivating. This was my favorite aspect of Akata Witch. I also admire Nnedi Okorafor’s writing style which is unadorned, yet graceful, with a lovely undercurrent of humor.

Akata Witch is an exciting, imaginative, and heart-warming story with a unique setting. I’d recommend it for children aged 10 and over, as well as teens and adults. The audio version, which has just been released by Tantor Audio (March 30, 2018), is 9 hours long and read by the perfectly cast Yetide Badaki. Badaki, a Nigerian-American actress, gives a marvelous performance. I loved it.

Akata Warrior, a sequel to Akata Witch, was released last October. I look forward to reading it when Tantor releases it in audio format. I hope that will be soon.

UPDATE: The audio version of Akata Warrior will be released by Tantor Audio on January 3, 2019.

Published in 2011. Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But as she’s finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them combat a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs? World Fantasy Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor blends magic and adventure to create a lush world. Her writing has been called “stunning” by The New York Times and her fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many more!

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. Add this to the list of “books I need to read ASAP.” You make Akata Witch sound wonderful!

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