Wealhtheow's Reviews > Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
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May 26, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: pocmaincharacters, post-apocalyptic, fantasy, race
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: feminist sf fans
Read in May, 2011

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 seek her nemesis: the man who raped her mother, sired her, and has been trying to kill her ever since. She is accompanied on her quest by four friends, her true love, and a herd of free-spirited camels.

This is an ambitious but frustrating work. Ambitious because it tackles head-on issues of rape, child abuse, child soldiers, female genital cutting, adolescent sexuality, genocide...Okorafor never flinches. But frustrating because the main character is pretty unlikable, the plot is your classic bildungsroman, and the pacing is terrible. Onye has a wide, bewildering array of magic powers that she seems to forget about just when the plot requires her to. After three hundred pages of exhaustively described meals and screamed dialog, she solves genocide in the last, like, two pages? And then there are something like three epilogues? It's not great.

Spoilers from here on out:(view spoiler)

I'm disappointed, because I expected to really like this book. As it is, it's so flawed (in my eyes) that I'm giving it 3 stars only out of respect for the breadth and depth of issues and world-building Okorafor attempts here, and not for any engaging writing or story.
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05/08 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Zach "As it is, it's so flawed (in my eyes) that I'm giving it 3 stars only out of respect for the breadth and depth of issues and world-building Okorafor attempts here, and not for any engaging writing or story. "

exactly how I felt.


Maggie Absolutely totally agree with your review. I still am not sure what makes this novel post apocalyptic?


Wealhtheow When I tag something "post-apocalyptic" I mean not so much that an actual apocalypse has happened as that societies and infrastructure as we know them have crumbled or been destroyed, and/or that huge percentages of the world's population have perished. The exact when or how isn't as important as the feeling I got from the story--stories that feature building on the ruins of a previous civilization, or roaming a well-nigh deserted world. I like when characters are desperate and have to build a new society out of what few resources they have.

This book had that feeling to me.


Maggie Yes I can see what you mean. I felt this book may have taken place in a post global warming world.


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