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Who Fears Death (Who Fears Death #1)

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,199 Ratings  ·  786 Reviews
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, sh
Kindle Edition, 396 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Daw (first published 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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
I read my first Octavia Butler novel, Dawn, late last year, and late in my life! Reading it I was like oh no black women fantasy sci-fi post apocalyptic fic writers, where have you been all my life? (right there on the shelf being read by millions of folk in the know while I wasted my time, obviously) This is my favourite kind of thing to read, hands down, it just hits my reading spot. This isn't a book of sublimely polished prose where the writer has clearly agonised over every adverb, but the ...more
May 26, 2011 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  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
Dec 24, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My feelings about this book are mixed and that makes it a difficult book to review and rate. To start with, it wasn’t anything like what I expected. The book was nominated for a Nebula (one of the premiere sci-fi awards) when it was published and the blurb states that the novel takes place in a far future, post-apocalyptic Africa. Visions of something similar to M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City danced in my head when I read this. I was picturing a future wasteland of rusted cities and abandone ...more
Liz Janet
Jan 20, 2016 Liz Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
In a post-apocalyptic Sudan, Onyesonwu (Igbo for “who fears death”) lives, being the offspring of the rape a Nuru man imposed upon a woman of the oppressed Okeke. After she has grown, she goes on a search to destroy her father, a sorcerer, using her own magic.

I read somewhere that this book was partially inspired by Emily Wax’s 2004 Washington Post article “We Want to Make a Light Baby,” which spoke of weoponized rape the Arab military men used against Black women during the Dafur conflict. And
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,
Mar 09, 2015 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I wanted to like this more than I did. I was quite looking forward to reading some African fantasy, especially by a female author. It's a refreshing change to the majority of vaguely medieval European male-dominated quest fantasies that are ubiquitous in the genre. I mean, I love LOTR as much as the next person, but China Miéville's comments on the inherent conservatism of much fantasy is definitely something I'd agree with. I realise that I also nearly fell into the trap that other r
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
Jul 12, 2011 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 02, 2010 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jul 11, 2010 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

I really really wanted to like this one, and I really thought I would judging by the first half. But the second half fell flat to me, and I couldn't find it me to care for these characters. The ending felt sloppy, and I don't believe that magic should be the solution to everything, even in a fantasy novel.

However, the setting, a post apocalyptic Africa, was very interesting and unique, and Nnedi Okorafor wove African mythology and lore into the story so well. She also doesn't shy away from m
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
Aug 19, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone

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
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
Tananarive Due
Sep 29, 2010 Tananarive Due rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not finished yet, but it's WONDERFUL so far!
Nadine Jones
Now see me. People here know that I caused it all. They want to see my blood, they want to make me suffer, and then they want to kill me. Whatever happens after this ... let me stop.

Tonight, you want to know how I came to be what I am. You want to know how I got here ... It's a long story. But I'll tell you ... I'll tell you. You're a fool if you believe what others say about me. I tell you my story to avert all those lies. Thankfully, even my long story will fit on that laptop of yours.

I have
Mar 05, 2011 Shauna rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 15, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rachael Sherwood
Apr 12, 2011 Rachael Sherwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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.
Aug 07, 2015 sologdin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speculative
Apparently Rothfuss was a reader of a draft of this text in 2004 (see 387), which makes some sense, as it is similar in formal terms to his writings in several respects, even though the details of the setting differ in content quite a bit. Basic premise of both is that protagonist attends sorcerer school in order to avenge parents, as told by protagonist after the fact to a third party historian.

Somewhat undecidable throughout the novel as to the locus and tempus of the narrative; is it a bizarr
Arielle Walker
I don't know exactly why, but I can't get into Nnedi Okorafor's writing at all. It certainly isn't bad, by any means. There are moments of incredible beauty, a raw power to the words and the stories and characters are completely unique. I just always feel that the stories she tells are almost too big for her to control, something in the writing is fighting the confines of the pages and so the stories jump around and sense is lost - just enough to make reading a chore instead of a pleasure - or e ...more
Apr 10, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars. I really loved this book. The world was fascinating, although I struggled with what the Ewu and Red People looked like. The mythology was intriguing and the powers Onye had were interesting as they continued to develop. I also liked the fact that Onye was an incredibly powerful sorcerer in a male dominated world. She struggled with issues of oppression all along. This book is a bit difficult in the violence that is experienced. The rape is fairly graphically explained, multiple times. ...more
Molly Ison
This is a YA book with adult themes, and I mean YA in the pejorative sense. It's somewhat jarring how the narrative goes from treating some scenes with sensitivity and complexity to writing the next scene like the most facile conventional fantasy. I think it would have been a much stronger book if the protagonist had dealt with the issues in her life and culture on a more local level than being a Prophesied Chosen One.

What was truly interesting to me was how the story continued addressing racis
Apr 28, 2015 rosalind rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
can i talk about my love for this book for a second. like heck yes. hell yes. this book is so great.

initially i picked it up because i was like, "post-apocalyptic book set somewhere other than the us or uk? which is africa? also supposed to be feminist? I AM EXCITED." i was kind of just expecting your standard, oh no, the world blew up, where is the sun? book only with, like, girls in africa. but that is NOT the book i read and even though i'd really like to read a book like that too, i'm just s
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
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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 Best Bo
More about Nnedi Okorafor...

Other Books in the Series

Who Fears Death (2 books)
  • The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)

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“Flawed, imperfect creatures! That's what we both are, oga! That's what we ALL are!” 9 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.” 7 likes
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