Monday, July 9, 2018

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

#bookeveryweek Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Onyesonwu is young woman who has spent her life as an outcast, for the crime of her birth, but was destined to save her world. In a far-future post-apocalyptic Africa, the pale-skinned Nuru and dark-skinned Okeke are at war, and Onyesonwu as an Ewu (child of the rape of an Okeke by a Nuru) is reviled and feared by nearly all. This world has magic and sorcerers, pulling from a variety of African traditions, but also deals with gender politics and power struggles on a more political level. It's a rich and complicated world well-described.

The story itself is a pretty traditional quest tale, with Onyesonwu finding herself and her power and her supporters and setting out to defeat the bad guy and change the world. Along the way, there's a lot of body horror and violence (rape, genocide, female circumcision) that can make it hard to read.

While there were many moments that amazed and thrilled me as I read, some parts of the book seemed to drag. Onyesonwu's waffling in self-confidence might be realistic, but it was frustrating and sometimes she seemed to waffle just to artificially create an obstacle in the plot and not from any impetus to make her doubt herself.

For every animal transformation, growth of power, and exploration of The Wilderness that moved the story and Onyesonwu's quest forward, there were two or three ridiculous arguments and small betrayals among the central group of friends. I expected more to come of the core group of female friends who went through the 11th year rite together than ever actually came about. While some of it was good and let the story explore issues of race and difference, a lot of it was just bickering among friends, which I found myself wanting to skim.

Still, I found the world fascinating, and Onyesonwu interesting and complicated. Despite the pacing issues, I never considered putting the book down. It's a compelling read, with echoes of Octavia Butler.

Post by Samantha Bryant, another bookish fangirl. You can learn more about her and her work at

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