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Akata witch by Nnedi Okorafor
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Akata witch (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Nnedi Okorafor

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3832828,125 (4)23
Member:bluesalamanders
Title:Akata witch
Authors:Nnedi Okorafor
Info:New York : Viking, 2011.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:age: young adult, genre: fantasy, read 2013

Work details

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (2011)

  1. 10
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling (questionablepotato)
    questionablepotato: I loved this book(which is admittedly better written than the HP stuff) for the same reasons I loved Harry Potter. Both books have likeable kids learning about themselves and their worlds, a vivid and unique sense of place, and really, really awesome world building.… (more)
  2. 00
    AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers by Ivor W. Hartmann (goddesspt2)
  3. 00
    The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi (questionablepotato)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Sunny is a twelve year old girl who lives in Nigeria, but she was born in the United States and she is also an albino - both of which leads to her facing bullying at school, where the other children call her “akata,” a slur against American-born black people and mock her albinism, referring to her as a “ghost.”

Sunny sees an apocalyptic premonition in the flame of a candle and shortly after learns she is a “Leopard person,” someone who can do magic. She is also what’s known as a “free agent” because her parents are not Leopard people, they are “Lambs” (non-magic.) She is forced to keep this new side of herself secret from her family, but makes new Leopard friends, including Orlu a kind boy she knows from school who has a gift for undoing bad magic. Her neighbour Chichi, whom Sunny always thought was a bit crazy, also turns out to be a very confident (perhaps tooconfident!) Leopard person who’s mother is a Nimm priestess. Sasha is a brash American boy who has been sent to Nigeria after getting into trouble back home. The four friends form an “oha" coven because they all balance one-another and are able to work in great harmony together.

Sunny is brand new to this world and just starting to learn the rules and her abilities (and the reader is learning with her) when suddenly the four young people become thrown into a plot involving a serial killer. This is where the novel gets a bit clunky as 90% of the book is world building, introducing us to the world, characters, setting things up and explaining them, and the villain feels much more like an afterthought. He’s in the background for most of the book and though we are told he does very bad things, it doesn’t have much impact on our characters so I kept forgetting about him until they’d bring it up again. Also he has no motivation beyond being evil.

This is a book I’d been wanting to read for a while and it is solidly entertaining and interesting, but also a little unsatisfying. There is quite a bit to love about Akata Witch - it’s a young adult fantasy adventure story set in Africa, drawing on African traditions and mythology which is really interesting and an original spin on the YA/fantasy genre and its tropes. I loved the characters, their “spirit faces” were really cool and the magic system was neat - though I thought it was a bit weird they earned money for learning new spells and such (a bit video gamey - I kept thinking it was like earning coins for levelling up, especially as it just appears out of nowhere and rains down around them.)

I was also really bothered by the fact that the wise Leopard scholars choose four children (Sunny is the youngest at 12 and the oldest is only 14) to defeat this serial killer/evil Leopard sorcerer. Yeah, this is a common trope in all YA/fantasy, the kids have to defeat some big evil thing, but the adults in this novel are just so incredibly callous about it. They flat out say if the kids are killed it won’t matter, they’ll just keep throwing more teams of children at this bad dude until he dies. Maybe there is some cultural dissonance here that I am just not getting - I am a white Canadian so there are possibly things I’m not picking up on or not understanding correctly - but I just could not wrap my head around the coldness of these supposed “mentors.” ( )
  catfantastic | Jan 1, 2017 |
Originally posted at https://reallifereading.com/2016/09/15/rip-xi-akata-witch/

Nnedi Okorafor’s books are always such a treat.

Akata Witch is the story of Sunny, born in America but who now lives in Nigeria with her brothers and parents.

“I’m Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I’ve got light yellow hair, skin the color of “sour milk” (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I’m albino.”

Sunny confuses people. She doesn’t fit in. Not at school, where she is called “akata” which means “bush animal” and is used to refer to black Americans or foreign-born blacks. She doesn’t really fit in at home either – her dad doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.

Then she becomes friends with Orlu, a boy in her school, who introduces her to Chichi, a rather strange girl who lives in a house full of books. And they reveal that they are Leopard People, powerful, magical. And that she too is one, except that she is a “free agent”. That is, despite her parents being ordinary folk, she is in a Leopard spirit line, and that she had magical abilities too, abilities that need to be unlocked and developed.

There is a whole world out there just for Leopard People. A place called Leopard Knocks with shops, restaurants and the Obi Library. For Leopard People, it’s all about learning.

She has to learn, to study juju, spells, magic. And this is on top of all the studying she already has to do for school. Add to that the sneaking around because she can’t tell anyone else about her newfound magical abilities, or the Leopard People.

Young and inexperienced as she is, she – and three other Leopard People friends- are tasked to catch a serial killer.

It’s such a fun read, as we explore this new world with Sunny, learn about her powers and this strange new double life she leads. Also there’s that element of darkness and danger lurking, not just with the serial killer, but all the tasks and skills training she goes through. Even a visit to a mentor’s house could be deadly!

And this magical world that Okorafor has created! One with an artist wasp that creates sculptures out of things it finds in nature like crumbs or mud – and will sting you if you don’t appreciate its work! The way Leopard People earn money, called chittim – when they learn something, the gold coins fall from the sky and land at their feet!

Akata Witch reminded me a lot of Zahrah the Windseeker (another fab read), in its strong young female character and fascinating world, and in this article with SFWA, Okorafor explains:

"But they’ll also find that all my novels are connected, they are telling one big story. Akata Witch is a prequel to The Shadow Speaker. Zahrah the Windseeker is directly linked the Who Fears Death. There is technology in Who Fears Death that is more explained in The Shadow Speaker. The Shadow Speaker shares characters with Zahrah the Windseeker. The Nigerian writing script Nsibidi plays a pivotal role in Who Fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker and Akata Witch. Aro (from Who Fears Death), The Desert Magician (from The Shadow Speaker), Papa Grip (Zahrah the Windseeker), Long Juju Man (from Long Juju Man), Junk Man (from Akata Witch) — he shows up in all of my novels in various forms." ( )
1 vote RealLifeReading | Sep 28, 2016 |
I did not like this book. It took too long to get rolling and the plot set up had too many poorly constructed threads. Maybe I was just impatient. I liked the Fun Facts for Free Agents- I think that was a smart craft move to cut out some of the teaching, but it wasn't enough. And oh God, will we ever escape portrayals of dyslexia as a label of privilege? ( )
  CALammert | Mar 19, 2016 |
Sunny has always been different. She's Nigerian, but was raised in America and has the pale coloring of an albino. And in adolescence, it turns out she's magic, as well. Although magic lets her play soccer in the sun and see wasps that create tiny fantastical scupltures, it also alerts her to grave danger. A magician named Black Hat is mutilating and sacrificing children, and only Sunny and her oha coven can stop him.

I like some components of this book much more than others. The background characters are great, from queenly Chichi to kind Orlu, and the magic is fantastic. When they pick the right juju knife, for instance, it feels like it's part of them. But Sunny herself felt flat to me. Ididn't really get her inner character--and what I did see, I didn't much like. She spends the majority of the final battle crying and telling her friends to give up. And the climactic battle is won with a very unsatisfying deus-ex-machina--Sunny just myseriously and randomly feels a wave of courage knows the exact spell to defeat the scariest Masquerade of them all, that even adult scholar-mages think is unstoppable. ( )
1 vote wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Really interesting fantasy ( )
  ewillse | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
"Akata Witch" is a much-needed addition to the many titles featuring Caucasian protagonists — one that will appeal to readers who are interested in foreign cultures, tradition and beliefs, or those who live between cultures themselves.
 
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Epigraph
Here, in the new venture, the extraordinary, the magical, the wonderful, and even the strange come out of the ordinary and the familiar.

--Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Dedication
To Sandra Marume, the spunky Igbo girl with the sharp tongue and mysterious ways, who just happened to be albino.

It's been awhile, but I hope I captured you well.

And to my mother, who was terrified of masquerades as a kid and still is.  This book dances with them.  Enjoy.
First words
I've always been fascinated by candles.  (prologue)
The moment Sunny walked into the school yard, people started pointing.  (Chapter 1)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670011967, Hardcover)

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are 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. And then she discovers something amazing - she is a "free agent," with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer.

(summary from another edition)

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