Who Fears Death
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Who Fears Death

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,530 ratings  ·  530 reviews
The critically-acclaimed novel-now in paperback.
In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different....more
ebook, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Daw Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post- apocalyptic Africa.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl...more
I've kept an eye on Nnedi Okorafor's career for a while now. Her books always intrigued me-I have a hard time resisting anything post-apocalyptic,* and hers are set in Africa, a great antidote to the typical lily-white American version-but the fact that they were always targeted at young adults kept me away. I like books to have some subtlety about them, paragraphs that don't have the same words in each sentence, lines of dialogue that don't end with "she said ___ly." (To be fair these are certa...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2011 Wealhtheow rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: feminist sf fans
Onyesonwu is the outcast child of a mother who cannot speak above a whisper. Her skin and hair clearly mark her as Ewu, a child of both Nuru and Okeke, a combination despised by Nuru and Okeke alike. Her gender makes the only sorcerer in the village unwilling to teach her. And her shapeshifting and nigh-uncontrollable magic make her neighbors fear and hate her. After her father dies and her magical powers manifest themselves at his funeral, she flees into the desert to avoid mob violence and to...more
A number of reviewers have talked about how they struggled with how dark the book was; how difficult it was to read accounts of rape and genital mutilation and racial genocide. There would, I think, be something wrong with me if I didn't find reading about that sort of thing viscerally unpleasant, but all were integral parts of the book's world building, and while they may have made reading some sections an uncomfortable experience, they didn't detract from my appreciation of the work as a whole...more
I somehow missed the fact that this book was meant to be post-apocalyptic (not a spoiler - apparently everyone knew it but me) until near the end, and therefore read it as a tale set in an alternate magical Africa. It had all of the touchstones of a fantasy quest, right down to the villain's all-seeing eye, albeit in a decidedly different setting. I had to recalibrate partway through, but I was so caught up that I didn't mind.

This is an excellent story, blending quest, myth, magic, cautionary t...more
Laurel Amberdine
(Copy of my Amazon review)

Set in an alternate/post-apocalyptic/futuristic African desert (with magic) "Who Fears Death" opens with a teenage Onyesonwu at her father's funeral. Grieving, she briefly and unintentionally starts to bring him back to life. She is a sorcerer, feared and hated because of her powers and her parentage. Her abilities, though spectacular, mostly endanger her and cause her suffering. But they also lead her on a quest to save her mother's people from impending war, slavery,...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Two of my favourite genres are Fantasy and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, so when I come across a book that marries them together, I can't wait to get my hands on it. Post-Apocalyptic Fiction usually pairs up with Science Fiction, if it pairs up with anything, so aside from being relatively unusual, it's also got plenty of room for originality.

Who Fears Death is set quite far in the future, but since the people of the story are ignorant of their history it's never clear just where they are in time, r...more
Lori (Hellian)
I read a lot of speculative fiction, and I can say I've never read anything like this before. Well, first the obvious - this takes place in Africa, but even more the sorcery is more akin to religious/spiritual powers outside Judeo-CHristian belief systems. So that was very cool. I found the writing a bit choppy, and I was somewhat detached. I very much look forward to more from Nnedi Okorafor, she provides food for thought, that's for sure. The ending was a great twist, too.
I really wanted to enjoy this book--but I couldn't. And perhaps that was the point. Okorafor uses the trappings of fantasy--a young sorceress, her training, a prophetic quest--to discuss dark subject matters, particularly, the matter of sub-Saharan Africa. So it's an oddly compelling mash-up of Chinua Achebe and a J.K. Rowling coming of age novel. Issues, like weaponized rape, genocide, slavery, color-caste racism, genital mutilation, and sexism exist along side casual magic (shape-shifting, tel...more

Onyesonwu, the heroine of Who Fears Death, is an African young woman, engendered through the rape of her mother by a fierce soldier from an enemy tribe. Thus she is part of a generation of outcasts called Ewu who are half-breeds with light skin and hair, rejected by both tribes. Her heritage is one of anger and violence but she is no victim. Instead, due to a strong will and fearless nature she becomes a rarity: a female sorceress. Her name means "Who Fears Death?"

The novel is dark, exciting, da...more
"To be something abnormal meant that you were to serve the normal. And if you refused, they hated you... and often the normal hated you even when you did serve them."

In Nnedi Okorafor’s post-apocalyptic Sudan, there are two predominant ethnic factions: the light-skinned Nuru and the dark-skinned Okeke. Who Fears Death takes place amid a genocide that the Nuru commit against the Okeke, a campaign that (like genocides in our own time) includes both murder and rape. The mixed-race offspring of a Nu...more
Mar 05, 2011 Shauna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all fantasy readers
Despite the good reviews and the cool cover, I was a little reluctant to read this book because the dust jacket flap copy made it sound as if book was full of violence and a total postapocalyptic downer. But the flap copy was merely trying to cash in on the current craze for gore and grit, I think. This is not a lighthearted book by any means, but the amount of violence is appropriate for an adventure book in which the heroine has to stop a crazed wizard before he kills her. None of the apocalyp...more
This is a very difficult book to rate. It has a strong beginning and a very strong ending but what lies between the two is rather weak.

Onyesonwu is a bi-racial female in post-apocalyptic Sudan. The first half is her growing up as an outcast and beginning her training as a sorceress. The second half is her journeying across the desert to confront her evil sorcerer father, revenge her mother and hopefully end the racial genocide. It starts out with minor magic realist elements then slowly adds in...more
Rachael Sherwood
This book ruled. It's structurally just another traditional Hero(ine)'s Journey story, but the unique setting, themes, and characters set it apart. I loved Onyesonwu, the stubborn, strong protagonist. Her relationships with her lover, friends, family, and mentor were complex and believable.

It's a fantasy and very fantastical at that--but is grounded in some very real and dark issues. The story is set in post apocalpytic Sudan, where genocide, weaponized rape, and female circumcision are common....more
Tananarive Due
Not finished yet, but it's WONDERFUL so far!
So there's this lady, and she lives in Africa where things aren't so great. In fact, one day she gets RAPED. She gets RAPED so hard that apparently enough semen pours out of her to make a hentai proud. As luck would have it, she gets a pregnant, and so our story begins.

This is the tale of Onyesonwu, a girl who's as obnoxious as she is mad. She doesn't think life is all that fair to the women in ol' Africa, and so she sets out to learn juju so that she can take revenge on her father (the guy who...more
David Hebblethwaite
This is the first time I have read any of Nnedi Okorafor’s work, and I suspect that what I’m about to write will not do justice to Who Fears Death. I suspect that I’ve seen only a fraction of what there is to see in the novel, but I’ll try to put my impressions into words nevertheless.

Some distance in the future, when disaster and the weight of centuries have turned our present time into echoes, a girl named Onyesonwu – ‘Who Fears Death’ – is born of violence, her Okeke raped by a Nuru man, as p...more
Julia March
Who fears death takes place in post-apocalyptic Africa. Two different races exist the Okeke who are enslaved by the Nuru. The Nuru follow the Great Book as their gospel and plan to exterminate the Okeke. A third race called Ewu has been fromed who are the children of Okeke and Nuru. Love between the Okeke and Nuru is forbidden so these children are labeled as children of rape.

We follow the story of Onyesonwu who is Ewu. Her mother was raped by a Nuru man who invaded her village. She is raised f...more
Scott D.
Jan 01, 2012 Scott D. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scott by: Jenny (Reading Envy)
Shelves: fiction
Nnedi Okorafor is known as a YA author, but this is her first adult novel. And it's very adult, with some difficult scenes of rape and violence.

This is not my typical fare, but I'm glad to have read it. It's a mixed bag genre-wise, being a fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Africa. There's a bit of science fiction here, but it's not well developed and not important to the plot, which is driven by the magical education of Onyesonwu, a "chosen one" character picked to stop genocide.

Of particular int...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Probably one of my favorite books I've read in quite a while.

I won't recap the premise of the book, but I was a little unsure of it at first. The plot made me think of an African version of Harry Potter, determined to defeat evil with the help of magic and, most of all, by relying on friends. Sounded a bit like the coming-of-age stuff I usually steer clear of.

There is a lot of adult content in this book, both violent and sexual. Nothing is so overt that it detracts from the story, though.

The cha...more
A dazzling, if occasionally dry, mixture of SF and low fantasy, Who Fears Death follows an outcast girl in deep-future Africa. Both blessed and cursed by her ties to nature (I'll stay vague to avoid spoilage), Onyesonwu - whose double-edged name means "Who Fears Death" - refuses to accept the inferior status heaped upon her. Gathering a group of friends, she leaves her apathetic community behind and rushes to meet a hazardous destiny.

Revealing details would suck a lot of the fun from this book....more
Bethany Harvey
I wavered between rating this three or four stars. Decided to be generous, since for me it really was a four-star book up until the last few chapters.

Unfortunately, those last few chapters were rushed, and simplistic, and the actual magical task the character had to carry out made very little sense. So I came away very dissatisfied with the end of what had been a promising book for most of the time I was reading it.

I blame the prophesy. I'm coming to feel that it is never a good idea to stick a...more
Melissa Proffitt
This is a magnificent, intense, powerful book that totally deserves the World Fantasy Award it just received. So much about it is unexpected; Okorafor takes ideas that have always only gone one way and turns them around, not for the sake of doing something different, but because the story demands it. I find it very difficult to explain exactly how I felt in reading it, but I both couldn't stop reading and had to take frequent breaks to come up for air.

Some of those differences: This is good post...more
Before I begin, I should confess that I only read halfway through the book, then found myself skimming the rest. That said, it should also tell you something about my opinion of the book.

I had never read Nnedi Okorafor before, but the book was sitting on the "What's Hot" shelf at my local library, and the description intrigued me. I've been a longtime fan of the fantasy genre, and found myself curious to step out of the mainstream and see what an African-based story would be like. The book was h...more
I'm not going to lie, this book is a hard read. I'm not saying that it's hard to read, but it starts off with a child of rape and details why she's hated and how she came into being.

One of the great things about this book is its sense of place. You get a feeling for the culture and the people and the environment. There is no sense that this is set in a vague, fantasy setting. The author knows exactly where this book takes place.

I also liked how it took the tropes of golden age and modern fantasy...more
Onyesonwu, a young woman conceived through violent means, has magical powers nearly beyond her control and an evil father who is bent on her destruction and the destruction of her people.

Nnedi Okorafor does an excellent job of catching the reader's attention and interest in the opening of the novel, but after nearly 100 pages still fails to offer anything new to further motivate the reader to keep going. Her punchy, short-sentenced style is reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler, as is her subject, br...more
A "review" made of non-sequential and probably only personally relevant observations.

I've always dreamed vividly, even my lesser dreams are beyond technicolor, hyperreal. When I wake I can remember, if I take a moment of stillness, sometimes a dozen stories. My dreams are populated by everything I've read, what I've experienced, what I haven't.

Maybe this is why I don't feel compelled to watch movies, they seem such a pale imitation. I know it's why I read. Real life is always intense to me, th...more
Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for best novel and made a number of other award shortlists and “Best of the Year” lists. This is a powerful book, one that looks unflinchingly at issues like rape and genocide, slavery and female circumcision. Unlike many books I’ve read, Okorafor’s approach never felt exploitative; she writes honestly. The book is sometimes brutal and sometimes beautiful and occasionally both at once.

The book is set in post-apocalyptic Africa, an...more
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Literary Fiction ...: "Who Fears Death" wins the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 7 31 Nov 01, 2011 08:20AM  
Great African Reads: "Who Fears Death" 8 40 Jun 30, 2010 07:43PM  
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Nnedi Okorafor (full name: Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor. Also previously known as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu) is a novelist known for her complex characters and weaving Nigerian cultures and settings into speculative narratives.

In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”.

Her YA novels include AKATA WITCH (an Amazon.com Best Bo...more
More about Nnedi Okorafor...
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“Flawed, imperfect creatures! That's what we both are, oga! That's what we ALL are!” 8 likes
“To be something abnormal meant that you were to serve the normal. And if you refused, they hated you . . .and often the normal hated you even when you did serve them” 2 likes
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