Leah’s Review of “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor

By: Leah

Originally posted on Leah’s Books.

Akata Witch

  • Author: Nnedi Okorafor
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: April 14, 2011
  • Publisher: Viking Children’s
  • Series: The Nsibidi Scripts #1

CONTENT WARNING: bullying, silence, blood, gore, murder of children

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plot Summary

Sunny doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The reason why will change her life forever.

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 just 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 against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

Overall Impression

This is one of those books that came highly recommended to me by someone who consistently suggests books that I love, so if you haven’t checked out Aqua Venatus, you seriously should. This was a super fast read, closer to the MG end of the spectrum, although I get the feeling that it’s going to move into YA territory rather quickly. 

Sunny is an easy character to like. She’s caught in the middle of various identities, and doesn’t quite fit easily into any of them. She’s both Nigerian and American, but struggles to identify as either or both. As someone with albinism, she’s often singled out as “different,” and I can’t help but recall how awful kids can be. And although she’s great at soccer, she can’t play because of her need to stay out of the sun and the fact that she’s a girl. But when she finds a group of other kids who accept her, it opens up a new world to her. However, they don’t really explain things very well, so she’s often confused and feel behind.

“Her path to anything seemed to always be difficult. And she hated how everyone was acting as if she should know the rules so well.”

Her new reality means learning about the presence of magic in a world that exists both within and alongside her own world. They call people like her Leopard People.

“Now that you are a Leopard Person, know that your world has just become more real. Creatures are real. Ghosts, witches, demons, shapeshifters, and masquerades, all real.”

One of the things that I liked best about this story was the way it turned things that make people different or unusual into strengths. Often, the differences hint at what their powers can be. However, there was a bit of a tendency to somewhat cure the issue, such as the character with dyslexia learning to read after discovering their powers, and Sunny not having to shield her skin from the sun afterwards.

“We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities.”

While a lot of the story focuses on Sunny’s struggle to accept her powers and learn more about them, there’s also a major plot line where the characters have to work together to take down a bad guy who is significantly stronger than them. I liked the way that the focus is more on teamwork than competition, and how they’re rewarded for cooperation, highlighting the strengths of each individual person and how well they work with each other.

This is such a fun and intriguing series, with a lot of incorporation of Nigerian culture and language. It’s a culture I don’t know very much about, and it was fascinating to see more of it. I’m already excited to continue on with this series, and to see Sunny and her crew grow up and change over the years. 

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