Akata Witch is the fourth book by Nnedi Okorafor that I have read in about 18 months and I will keep reading Okorafor’s books. I started Akata Witch immediately after finishing The White Thread, the third book in the contemporary young adult fantasy series Gateway Chronicles. The two are very different settings, characters and styles, but both worth reading.
Nnedi Okorafor is a writing professor at University of Buffalo. She is exactly one year younger than I am. Her parents came to the US from Nigeria for school. Okorafor was born in the US but moved back and forth between Nigeria and the US as a child and teen. According to Wikipedia, Okorafor was diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 and at 19, due to a rare complication, was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. It was during this time of paralysis that she started writing. She eventually went on to get a Masters in Journalism and a Masters and PhD in English Literature.
Okorafor and several others, primarily women authors, have become known for writing science fiction and fantasy from a distinctly African or Caribbean perspective. I have not read widely in this area yet, but American Street and Akata Witch certainly are examples of Magical Realism in modern Fantasy and come from a distinctly non-US/European cultural perspective.
Part of what is interesting to me about the Magical Realism, at least as I have read it so far is that it is often based on a religious overlay. That religious overlay may be construed as magical in the Magical Realism, but the different cultural backgrounds are rooted in their different religious backgrounds, even if they are not serious about the faith aspects of that religious background.
Akata Witch is about Juju in a somewhat similar way that American Street was rooted in Voodoo and Larurs was rooted in Orthodox Christianity. Juju provides the backstory to the fantasy world that is at the heart of Akata Street.
In the book description, Akata Witch is been described as Nigerian Harry Potter, but I do not think you really need to describe it in that way. Sunny is 12 years old. She was born in the US to a lawyer and doctor parents, but returned to Nigeria when she was 9. She is albino and cannot go out into the sun without an umbrella for protection. That, in addition to her American influenced accent and culture, alienates her from others her age.
Eventually she discovers that she is one of the Leopard People. A world wide group of magical humans. She is a ‘free agent’, one that did not grow up within the home of Leopard People parents and culture. Akata Witch uses excerpts from a book on ‘Free Agents’ as a way of developing the world around Sunny and dropping information to the reader. It worked in the audiobook, but I think it may have been more effective in print.
I really enjoyed the book. But the strength of the book was the world building. The plot is a bit thin. The final climax was very short and felt rushed. It is also hard to keep Sunny at 12 years old in my head. Much of the time I think she is acting older. Maybe she is just mature for her age, but I think it is a weakness.
Akata Witch is the start of a series. The second book, Akata Warrior, was released in 2017 (six years after Akata Witch), but the audiobook won’t be release until December 2018. I think I am going to wait for the audiobook. I was not fond of the narration of Binti and read the rest of that series. But the narration of Akata Witch was excellent.