Akata Warrior is the sixth book by Nnedi Okorafor I have read in the past couple of years. Okorafor is a fantasy author that occasionally mixes science fiction ideas and grounds her books in African folklore and culture. Her stature is rising and I have heard frequently over the past few weeks about her being mentored by George RR Martin. I am frankly more interested in her ventures in the comic book world, where she is both writing her own comic and one about Shuri, the Black Panther’s sister, than I am about her relationship to Martin.
I was first introduced to Okorafor through Binti trilogy and then Who Fears Death. The Akata series is the third story line. I have enjoyed all of them, and they are all different, while feeling like they are by the same author. Okorafor is writing with a distinctly African folklore and cultural background, while being accessible to others. She has lived in the US on and off for decades. The African (Nigerian mostly I believe) folklore gives a unique voice to fantasy and science fiction that tends to be based most often on British or at least northern European cultural roots. And Okorafor also focuses on female protagonists in a genre that is decidedly male focused as a whole.
I approached the first book in the series, Akata Witch as a young adult book. I think I probably still would classify the series as young adult, but I am not sure. Young Adult tends to have some themes that are about coming of age, growing independence, relationship to parents (or not), and some limits on how much sex or violence or language is included. The content is appropriate for young adults, but I am not sure that the story is really a young adult story as much as it has young adult characters. This second book seems older.
With much of Okorafor’s books, action drives to story. The characters are fleshed out, but the story is an active one and these are definitely quest driven books. I have been engaged throughout all of the books, but I also feel like there is a bit less depth and I am not sure if I would be as engaged with a second reading. I think I would catch more of the nuance of the mythology on a second reading. But I just am not sure if it is my lack of familiarity with the cultural references or if it is that there are less dense referencing and plotting along the way.
There were definitely a few points along the way of Akata Warrior where I picked up some detail that was foreshadowed in the first book. Okorafor is a good writer. But I am not sure if she is a solid writer that I will keep reading, but who is writing in a cultural context that I am unfamiliar with, and so I am missing subtlety; or if she is a good writer that keeps her details on the top level and isn’t writing with some of the nuance and depth of a really great writer. And I don’t think I can know that unless I keep reading, which I fully intended to keep doing.