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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Book Name: Akata Witch
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher(s): Viking Juvenile (US) Viking Childrens Books (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / eBook
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Release Date: April 14, 2011

After enjoying Who Fears Death so much, I thought I would pick up another book by the same author. One reading success does lead one to hope for another and in this case, my hopes were fulfilled.

Akata Witch centers around Sunny, a Nigerian schoolgirl with albinism, as she discovers that she has juju magic passed on from her grandmother. In the middle of learning how and when to use her powers in the hidden parallel town of Leopard Knocks with her friends Chichi, Orlu, and Sasha, the vicious child murderer Black Hat prowls the streets looking for new victims. Let the mess ensue.

I really liked how Sunny’s introduction to the hidden world of the Leopard people was handled and how it made her strained home life more uncomfortable as she wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I especially liked that her family life was important to her character and the story. I also liked the contrasts between Sunny’s family (who are unaware of juju) and her friends’ families (who know about juju). I enjoyed the byplay between them from all of their different backgrounds and how those differences made them better when all together. Sometimes they were really smart, sometimes they were mind blowingly dumb, but it always made sense for that character to react in that way.

There was such a nice balance between Sunny’s mundane world problems with bullying and her father, her need to learn the ins and outs of Leopard Knocks as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and the anxiety about taking on Black Hat. I loved how such disparate things wove the story into something wonderful and scary and surprising. Nothing happened without there being some consequence for good or for ill or for a mix of the two.

Culture shock seemed to be a recurring theme in the story. Sunny is frequently confused and sometimes scared and angry at the things she sees in the company of the leopard people about as often as she is amazed by it. Since there are so many cultures interacting in this novel, there are many points of reference to be had for introduction for the reader into the story itself and all the layers mixed within it.

I suppose I could say something about Black Hat being a boogeyman more than a character. However, given that boogeymen are often a compilation of multiple ingrained cultural fears, he ends up being more of a dark mirror to Sunny’s struggles to understand her parents. Much of what he is, is tied up with Sunny’s family and she has to deal with that unwelcome revelation in addition to the horrors Black Hat inflicts upon the magical and non-magical communities.

I found myself taking my time to read Akata Witch because I wanted it to last as long as possible. I love the multilayered writing, the setting is awesomely complex, and the characters are beautifully dynamic. I will be re-reading this frequently and recommending it highly.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer wanted to give this 11/10 stars, but that was not possible with our widget. 😉


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