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Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1)

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  3,069 Ratings  ·  701 Reviews
What Sunny Saw in the Flames transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Viking Children's
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Sunshine Jones I think this is a clear case of why it's so important to read beyond a book's title page. Despite the racial slur in its title, I was required to read…moreI think this is a clear case of why it's so important to read beyond a book's title page. Despite the racial slur in its title, I was required to read Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane in high school. I assume the book was selected because whoever designed the curriculum could recognize that the author's intent was not to offend, but rather to honestly depict his experience. In the case of Akata Witch, it is clear from my reading that the author's intent was not to offend Black Americans but rather to honestly portray the difficulty of fitting neatly into poorly demarcated racial/national hierarchies.

But I also think we have no business trying to determine what could or couldn't possibly be offensive to others - that should be up to the reader and if it offends them they are welcome to stop reading. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 Rick Riordan rated it really liked it
I spent the weekend with a great book: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. As you can guess, I’m a sucker for all kinds of mythology, and this middle grade/YA fantasy is steeped in the myth and magic of Nigeria.

Our main character is Sunny, a twelve-year-old girl born in the U.S. but recently moved to her parents’ homeland of Nigeria. Sunny stands out in more ways than one – she’s albino, she’s a prodigy at soccer, and she’s teased at school for being an akata (literally a ‘wild animal’) because she i
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After seeing the author read from what will be Akata Witch #2, I realized I had overlooked a book I should seek out. Akata Witch soon pulled itself ahead of the other books in my tbr pile.

If you like books about magic, particularly teens finding out they have special abilities, learning to use them, and building a community with others like them, this is the book for you. Added to those well-loved tropes is a new landscape with new traditions and rules. Setting it in Nigeria, with Igbo people b
Book Riot Community
Born in New York City, but living in Nigeria, twelve-year-old Sunny feels like she’s straddling two worlds. This becomes even more true when she discovers her magical abilities and enters the world of Leopard people. This book is one of the most original and woke fantasy stories I’ve ever read. It openly discusses bullying, racism, beauty standards, police brutality in the United States, and greed. All month I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I meet, kids and adults alike.

— Alison Dohe
Jun 25, 2016 Yamini rated it liked it
Shelves: in-print, sff, childrens
3.5 stars

There’s something about Nnedi Okorafor’s writing that is extremely engrossing. Even though I wasn’t a massive fan of the previous novel I’ve read by her, Lagoon, I knew I would still continue reading her works because she has the impressive ability of weaving a beautiful story. ‘Akata Witch’ was no different.

I’d seen this readers compare this book to Harry Potter and that made me incredibly queasy at first, but I still took the plunge. And while I definitely saw a lot of imitation, read
Jul 21, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it
So, first of all, holy crap, a fantasy novel about an albino girl in Nigeria that doesn't spend its time exoticizing albinism or Africa! (I could have simply written, holy crap, a fantasy novel about an albino girl in Nigeria, but the fact that it was done right made me really happy.)

This book's greatest strength is definitely the worldbuilding. I loved the magic and magical community in this book; Harry Potter comparisons can be made simply because both authors have a flair for inventing vivid
Kim Miner Litton
Sep 30, 2011 Kim Miner Litton rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
So torn on this one about giving it a 3 or 4 star rating.

Pros: Love that the story is set in Africa, with African and African American main characters, as well as an albino. Also, it goes the Percy Jackson route of explaining that what we call "learning disabilities" like ADD and dyslexia, are just bi-products of their uniqueness as magicians. The world building is fantastic. We often see magic from a European point of view and it was really cool to see this fresh take.

Cons: When I was told that
Jun 24, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
This is a lovely YA novel. It contains some similarities to the author's adult novel, Who Fears Death: a strong female protagonist who is just coming into her own power; a band of young friends who need to take on a larger evil; an African setting (far-future Sudan in that case, present day Nigeria in this one). If I remember correctly, both also begin with first-person sequences in which the protagonist gets a hint of her own power, and then segue into third-person for the remainder of the book ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing
I finished reading Nnedi Okorafor's YA fantasy Akata Witch on the flight to Colorado last week. I then recommended the book to a number of different people at the conference. It’s fun, interesting, fast-paced, and just plain good.

I’ve seen a few reviews that describe the book as being inspired by or too similar to Harry Potter. Both are coming-of-age stories about children who discover they have magic. Both protagonists explore a hidden magical community, and ultimately, they both have to face a
Uche Ogbuji
May 29, 2011 Uche Ogbuji rated it it was amazing
I'll just quote fromt he conclusion of my TNB review:

What I personally love best about the novel is how well it plays on the confusion of identities that affect so many Nigerians, especially those who've split time between Nigeria and the U.S. or Europe as children. I certainly remember returning from America to Nigeria at the age of ten, after seven years abroad, and encountering hostility and ridicule as an outsider, feeling as if I didn't really belong on any of the three continents I'd calle

For a fantasy set in Nigeria, involving not only magic but violent serial murders, this book was remarkably dull. There was a lot of walking and expositing, and the setting, which could have been excitingly different from the genre-fallbacks, was oddly blank. Except for specific things which were described, I didn't get much sense of place. But my main complaint was the characters. I vaguely disliked most of them, but overall found them flat. Even when a teacher puts them in mortal danger they c ...more
First posted at

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
Jul 20, 2012 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
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 chara
Apr 10, 2016 Sesana rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
Mixed feelings here. The magic system that Okorafor uses is pretty neat. It felt more ritualistic and less formalized than the sort of magic that, say, Harry Potter uses. I especially liked that the magic users get paid for learning, even though that actually raises a lot of questions that nobody seems terribly keen to answer. But other than that, it's kind of basic. Not much actually happens in this book, and there's definitely room enough. Yes, there's a lot of exposition, and I expect that in ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
The Nigerian setting and the system of magic were what I liked most about this book and what I thought were the novel's greatest strengths. I loved the vocabulary that went with both, although a glossary for the Igbo words would have been nice.
I like learning about about other cultures, ideally through travel; by necessity, though, it's mostly through reading. The setting here provided neat glimpses into Nigeria's culture and language and in the way the country's official language Engl
Cara M
Dec 02, 2011 Cara M rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-modfantasy
I went with the three stars - I liked this book - because I did like it, I think. It was interesting, clear, and plainspoken, and a window into a world that could have been utterly foreign, but instead was instantly familiar, because it was familiar to the narrator. As a linguist, I loved the depiction of languages in this book, Igbo, Efik, Yoruba, English, French, Arabic, Hausa, and the way all the languages touched, the way people spoke Igbo with a Yoruba accent, or needed a translator between ...more
Dani Ang
Dec 12, 2013 Dani Ang rated it did not like it
If you're looking for an interesting example of non-Eurocentric worldbuilding, then pick up this book. If you're looking for a good plot and sound characterisation, you can probably find better.

In terms of setting, this book is fantastic: it's interesting, different and a nice change from the super-Euro default setting of most urban fantasy novels. The world-building, although we're not shown much outside of the character's immediate area, is fantastic and gives a good impression of what the glo
Arlene (Urbrightside)
Oct 13, 2016 Arlene (Urbrightside) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: african lit lovers, ya lovers, witchcraft and wizard lovers
4.5 Stars!!


Honestly I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up, but it didn't take me long to realize what a gem I had stumbled upon.

Okay so Sunny is an albino girl, of 12-ish, and she gets a glimpse of what is to happen in her world, but she isn't all the way sure of what she saw in the flames that night (not a spoiler, it's in the prologue). Normally she is reduced to name calling, being left out, picked on all because, kids are cruel, and albinism is not looked u
Aug 02, 2011 Mickie rated it really liked it
So far this book is really different and refreshing! An albino Nigerian girl discovers her latent magical powers and a whole new world of magic hiding in plain sight. I want to call her the Nigerian Harry Potter, but that feels wrong. This book is so new and different it is nothing like anything I have ever read, but it still has that magiccal feel of discovery that makes HP so fun.

Also the setting is so rich: mud huts and albino skin, red stew and dark earth, red blood and white bone--every se
Jul 29, 2011 Beverly rated it really liked it
Heading: To Thine Ownself Be True

In Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, 12 year-old Sunny is trying to find her fit in the world based on who she is as a person, but is challenged by how others see her. After being born in America, and living her first years there, Sunny is currently living in Nigeria with her parents and brothers, as her parents decided to return to their homeland. She is constantly bullied at school because she is an “akata,” a derogatory term for an American of African descent, an
Claire Scott
12-year-old Sunny is caught between worlds: she’s Igbo Nigerian-American, born in the United States but living in Nigeria, a wonderful soccer player who rarely goes in the sun because of her albinism, and most of all, discovering that she’s the only magical member of her non-magical family. Oh, and she has to save the world. Okorafor has taken an undeniably formulaic fantasy structure – a feisty outsider heroine makes friends, learns to control her powers, and discovers her true self -- and crea ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Wendy rated it really liked it
I was ready to be all "This is like The Dark is Rising but with West African setting and mythology instead of British!" Skimming the comments below, I see that Harry Potter is apparently the proper comparison. Have I lost all credibility because I haven't read Harry Potter?

This is a long book. It isn't so much super-long as that it has a lot of stuff going on. I thought to myself halfway through "It is OKAY that this is so long, because maybe she decided it would be better as one long book than
Sunny Nwazue doesn't have the easiest life for a 12-year-old. Born to Nigerian parents, she was raised in the United States until she was 9 when her family decided to return to Nigeria. As if it's not hard enough to get used to a new culture, Sunny's albino and can't go a day without her peers tormenting her. And on the day this novel opens, she sees the end of the world while staring into a flame, revealing another difficult side of her nature. With the help of a few friends, she comes to under ...more
I'm sorry that I took so long to read one of Nnedi Okorakor's books! I also really wish I had had access to more books like this when I was younger. It feels like a book I would have read and loved, which I just did. But at 11 or 12 years old? This book would have been everything! And it has everything! The characters are believable, lively, and lovable. The monsters and the adults are real. Action and adventure, FANTASY/MYTHOLOGY, awkward tween/teen romance. The best part: strong female charact ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Cris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This was an exceptionally beautiful book. Rich in culture, magic, and characters. It's all about being different and finding yourself beautiful and strong in those differences.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books about magic or coming of age stories.
Jan 14, 2012 Colin rated it really liked it
Oh, I really liked this one. It was really vivid and creative, and had better disability politics than Who Fears Death. Good characters, too. It actually had a lot of the same elements as Who Fears Death, it kind of felt kinda like this was a YA version exploring some of the same themes. Don't know if I would have noticed it so strongly if I hadn't read them so close together or not. Anyway, this was very good. I'm excited to read the next one.
Anna Sobotka
Aug 19, 2016 Anna Sobotka rated it liked it
I love the concept of this book: a culture that rewards learning and reading, that blends tradition with fantasy, that features a female protagonist who is both athletic and inquisitive. I also appreciated the complex role of languages.

Unfortunately the form dampens the potential of the concept. The plot isn't tight, and although the central antagonist is introduced early on, nothing is done to build tension until the final scene (which, like the other events in the book, is underdeveloped).The
Feb 25, 2015 Stacia rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of YA fantasy lit
Shelves: africa, 2015
This is a YA novel that has some similarities to Harry Potter & The Mysterious Benedict Society, but with a West African/Nigerian base of myth, legend, & fantasy. I'm not usually a fan of YA lit, but this one kept me reading for the cultural uniqueness. I'd recommend it for middle grade children who have enjoyed HP or other recent fantasy novels, but who are looking for something a bit uncommon added to the canon. A caveat -- sensitive types might find part of the storyline frightening ( ...more
Apr 17, 2016 Anjali rated it really liked it
Why does social media conspire to update me every time JK Rowling "reveals" something about the Harry Potter world that she left out of the series?? It is slowly tarnishing my view of that series, making it more and more obvious how white-privileged and eurocentric the whole endeavor was, with everything other than heteronormative white maleness being some kind of weird afterthought (you'll never believe what character was gay! or Black! what!!). And btw, if you are wondering why she made the ma ...more
Nov 18, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it
To quote my midway report to a friend: "Most fantasy is saturated with European ideas about what fantasy magic worlds are like: elves, mountains, Germanic forests, castles, wizards, witches, etc.
This is a different type of fantasy that I think is refreshing and new, but still familiar to Caribbean and (I assume) African readers because of the cultural knowledge about folktales and regional magic practices like Obeah and Voodoo. I imagine others with knowledge about non-European cultural knowledg
Jul 27, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: teens-ra, fantasy
I've seen lots of reviews calling this "the Nigerian Harry Potter", and that's somewhat accurate. A lot of Harry Potter fans would probably enjoy it, and there are a number of details that seem to be a homage to the Potter books. The Leopard/Lamb (Wizard/Muggle) dichotomy, the hidden and cheerfully chaotic nature of Leopard Knocks (a lot like Diagon Alley), the funky train (a lot like the Knight Bus), among other things, seem to parallel Rowling's world. Also the running concept of kids attempti ...more
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Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults.

Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times cal
More about Nnedi Okorafor...

Other Books in the Series

Akata Witch (2 books)
  • Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2)

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“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.” 10 likes
“There will be danger; some of you may not live to complete your lessons. It's a risk you take. This world is bigger than you and it will go on, regardless.” 8 likes
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