Jul 11, 10
Read in July, 2010
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, teleportation, and other dimensions). The characters do go through hell, but the author does manage to inject warmth and humor into the tale. While the first person narrative is engaging, the reader (or this reader) noticed that the text was in conversation with other texts, both literary and political. It made for a richer read, but I fear that other readers might miss the significance and be left in the dark. In short, this is not escapist fantasy literature, though the magic here will transport you to another world. Allegory enrobes this story.
Who Fears Death reminds of The Unconquered Country, by Geoff Ryman and Ben Okri's tales of Azarro the Spirit Child. This is a brave book, full of some horrific images.