Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor

Akata Witch Book Cover

Information

GoodreadsAkata Witch
Series: Nsibidi Scrolls #1
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but grew up in the United States. She is also albino. And she feels like she does not fit in anywhere. Then, she learns that she has latent magical abilities. She is what is known as a free agent–a magical person with non-magical parents. And she has to keep her powers a secret.

Soon, she is training with three other students to learn how to control her abilities. But there is a criminal on the loose, a magical person who has been kidnapping and killing children. And Sunny and her friends might be the only ones who can stop him.

Star Divider

Review

Akata Witch transports readers to a unique magical world where Leopard people train in secret right next to their Lamb neighbors. Where a person can walk between the physical and spiritual realms. Where the creatures of myth just might be real. Readers looking for a young adult fantasy that does not feel derivative or, indeed, like anything else on the market, will want to check out the inspired world of Akata Witch.

As in with any book that feels different, Akata Witch risks alienating some readers. The pacing and the build-up to the climax are uncommonly slow for a young adult read; most YA books seem to prioritize action-based, lightning-fast plots over anything else. Nnedi Okafora, however, takes time to develop the worldbuilding, luring in readers as slowly as the protagonist Sunny is lured into a strange new world of magic and danger. Without exaggerating, I believe I could estimate that the first three quarters of the book (at least) are just Sunny finding out that she has powers, attending magical lessons, and experiencing the magical world. Eventually, Sunny learns that she and friends will be called on to face and (hopefully) defeat a Leopard man who has been kidnapping children for his dark rituals. But, even then, the four do not undergo any special training or feel any sense of urgency about the matter. They attend a festival and play soccer instead. All this slow pacing ends abruptly in the fast-paced climax, however, when Sunny and her friends somehow manage to defeat an ancient evil without really knowing what they are doing.

The worldbuilding is, however, a delight, and readers who value that aspect of fantasy writing will find much to revel in here. Nnedi Okafor draws upon Nigerian folklore to create a world steeped in meaning and magic, a world that feels quite like anything else on the YA market. From the terrifying lessons with her Leopard teacher, to the magical market, to the recipes that apparently can kill or injure should the slightest ingredient go wrong, Sunny’s world is one that constantly surprises. It also keeps Sunny and the readers on their toes as, with any good fantasy world, the price of magic is very often danger. Sunny’s initiation into the Leopard world confronts her with a training system and a belief system that often seems cruel and heartless to her–but the way the Leopard people understand and interact with the world is also thought-provoking, and certainly a key to this coming-of-age story.

Akata Witch is a precious find, a YA fantasy that feels unique and that invites readers into a world that not only enchants and surprises, but also explores questions of identity and belonging. If you are looking for a thrilling YA fantasy, don’t wait! Pick this one up today!

4 stars

12 thoughts on “Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor

  1. Sammie @ The Bookwyrm's Den says:

    Great review! I had the same experience with this one as you did. The pacing felt really wonky (not necessarily wrong, per se, but as you said, very different than what we’re used to reading in YA books). I agree that the worldbuilding was so refreshing, though! I’ve only read the first book so far, but I look forward to continuing the series.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I kept thinking, “Okay, so NOW they are going to train for this climatic battle, right?” Nope! No training! But I did enjoy all the worldbuilding! And I congratulated myself on somehow reading this right as book three came out so I won’t have to wait for years like everyone else. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. aquavenatus says:

    At the end of last year, I read all of the books in this series (including the short story) so I could read “Akata Woman.” I still need to write up my reviews, but I enjoyed this series A LOT!

    Like

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