Robert's Reviews > Zahrah the Windseeker

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
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's review
Feb 04, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: children-s, fantasy, sci-fi
Read from February 04 to 08, 2012

Zahrah is a girl living in a small kingdom that is surrounded by jungle. She's dada - born with not just hair, but plany vines growing from her head - which is rare and mystical in this world. Soon, we realise this is not Earth: the technology is deeply integrated with plants and the natural world, and the wildlife is a little more fantastical than that on Earth.

Growing up as outsider, she is picked on and bullied, with only one real friend - a popular boy who is adventurous and has an explorer spirit. Together, they sneak into the forbidden Dark Market (well, forbidden to children), and ultimately, the outskirts of the Forbidden Jungle (forbidden to all). But misadventure occurs, and it will be up to Zahrah to find spirit and bravery within herself, if she wants to save his life...

It took me a long while to get used to the book and its world. It is not as different from our world as China Mieville's New Weird genre, but at the same time, it's different enough to not feel like a bog standard fantasy or scifi world. I kept expecting subversions that were not forthcoming: that we were on Earth all along, just in an isolated jungle in Africa. Or that the main monsters would turn out to be human bulldozers or tanks. Or that the "humans" were in fact fairies or other animals...

Instead, the narration is at face value, which I simply did not expect. It took me a very long while (half the book or more) to get used to this, and even near the very end, I kept expecting twists and subversions and more. I suppose the world that has been created here is, for my personal taste, sitting somewhere awkward: not strange enough, nor familiar enough, for me to feel entirely at ease as a reader.

The adventure story meanwhile is quite straightforward and deftly told. Our heroine starts out perhaps a little too shy and easily scared, has adventures, and gets her bacon saved by luck perhaps a little too often. But by the end, I was quite engaged and gripped by the narrative.

I'm certainly intrigued by Nnedi Okorafor's writing vision, and curious to read other novels, to see in which direction she develops...

3.5/5 stars, really...

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Reading Progress

02/06/2012 page 94
29.0% "A third of the way in, and I haven't made my mind up about any aspect of this novel, or how I feel about it. Interesting."

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