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The Shadow Speaker

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  959 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
In West Africa in 2070, after fifteen-year-old "shadow speaker" Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, she embarks on a dangerous journey across the Sahara to find Jaa, her father's killer, and upon finding her, she also discovers a greater purpose to her life and to the mystical powers she possesses.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Disney Book Group/Hyperion
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Suzi I ended up finding a paperback copy at the library and enjoyed it. I found it to be quite different from Who Fears Death personally.

Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Recommends it for: people young and old who enjoy a good story
Recommended to Nnedi by: me
Absolutely wonderful. :-D
This book was not good. I got to the end and remembered that Ursula Le Guin had given it a glowing blurb, and wondered what the hell she had been thinking. Then I flipped the book over and found that the glowing blurb was this possible back-handed compliment:

"There's more vivid imagination in a page of THE SHADOW SPEAKER than in whole volumes of ordinary fantasy epics. -- Ursula K. Le Guin"

So true, and so entirely the problem with this book.

The Shadow Speaker takes place in a future Africa afte
Aug 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Abigail, Brad, Ceridwen, jo, Mme T
How friggin' scary--a talking shadow!

Perfect for Halloween! Can't wait to read this!
duck reads
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ww, wc, woc-iw, coc-ic, fiction, sff
I am so torn over this book. It's a post-apocalyptic dystopian future fantasy set in West Africa, starring a teen girl with magic powers who goes on a quest with a really kickass warrior queen, the queen's two husbands, another teen with magic powers, and some talking animals. It should have been SO GOOD. It really set out to be, too. The protagonist, Ejii, is very likable, and though her magic is possibly too immediately powerful to be satisfying, she does struggle with it and with her newfound ...more
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever wished upon a star
This book is AWESOME!!! When I first read the back of the book I kinda thought it was going to be like another book I read called Obernewtyn because both of them are set in worlds that have "magical powers" because of an old war. This book is reeeeally different from Obernewtyn but is still reeeeeally good! It actually reminded me of another book called The Blue Sword. I think thats because I loved that book and the character went on a life changing journey that helped her develope and save the ...more
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really loved this. It's an earlier work from Okorafor, and isn't as detailed or well-plotted as Akata Witch and the magnificent Who Fears Death, but it's a great read. Okorafor imbues what could have been a very dark story with a sense of wonder and joy at discovery; I wanted to spend much more time in the worlds she describes.
It is 2070, and life on Earth has been completely changed after a disastrous nuclear fallout earlier in the century: now in addition to technology, there is magic, and there are magical gateways to another world, Ginen (the world of Zahrah the Windseeker). Certain people have become metahuman, with strange abilities like rainmaking, or speaking to shadows, as Ejii Ugabe is able to do. When Ejii was eight, she witnessed the execution (or perhaps murder) of her power-seeking father by Jaa the Red ...more
duuuuuuuuuuuuude. Look. I ate this up in one sitting. I could barely convince myself to put it down to pee (spoiler alert, I didn't, I took it with me.) I wish I could give it another star. I kind of want to fight people giving it bad reviews. I want to erase it from my memory so I can read it again. I want to read 1000 more books in this world. This is what spec fic should be man A+ bye yall

Awesome female lead, check. Awesome female lead with two female mentors (mother + Jaa and dont even get
Sheila Ruth
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
The Shadow Speaker is a richly imagined coming of age story with a theme of empowerment. The book's biggest strength is the characters: author Okorafor-Mbachu breathes life into a fascinating cast of characters. The portrayal of future Niger is interesting, combining highly imaginative world-building with elements of modern Niger projected into the future. However, the imaginative elements were occasionally a little too bizarre for my tastes, and the reasons for the changes weren't always well-e ...more
Nicholas Gourlay
May 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: young teens and fans of the fantastical.
Shelves: fiction, ya
I thoroughly enjoyed this highly imaginative coming of age tale about Ejimafor Ugabe, Dikéogu, and five seperate worlds. This story had a wonderful 'feel' to it that makes me want to recommend it to almost everyone.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow I liked this book, and I can't remember the last time I said that about something post-apocalyptic. Probably never. I was really impressed by the narrative character, Ejii; she is caught between being a child and a young woman and the author is not afraid to explore this dichotomy and the whirlwind of emotions that accompany every part of her changing self. I particularly liked that despite everything crazy and unforeseen in her journey, Ejii never waivers in her worldview or her faith. She ...more
Guy Gonzalez
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The Shadow Speaker, Nnedi Okorafor spins a wildly imaginative, entertaining and nicely balanced coming of age tale unabashedly set in a fantastical Africa of the near-future where alternate worlds have collided and the threat of war looms on the horizon.

Okorafor's impressive world-building alone is noteworthy enough, but her nuanced characters are what really makes the story work, and its star, 14-year-old Ejimafor (Ejii) Ugabe, is an excellent and much-needed addition to the lily white ranks
Ai Miller
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ai by: Minosh
I really had no idea what to expect going into this and WOW it really blew my socks off! The world was so rich and yet so, so grounded; the characters all were so complex and sympathetic and yet frustrating as well. I loved that things had consequences in this book, and was left wanting a lot more of this world- I was surprised there hasn't been a sequel because it really felt like there was going ot be, but I also recognize the power in having this be a standalone and encouraging the reader to ...more
Karen Healey
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
I am not crazy in love with the style of this book; it's a little simplistic for my taste. Which isn't a criticism as such - it's good, solid writing, just not the kind of thing I swoon for. (More critically: I think also that the pacing's off, and while I like the characters, I found it difficult to reach empathy with many of them).

However, I am head over heels for the ideas. There's so much excellent world-building and flat-out awesome GOSH in this book.
Daniel Burton-Rose
I never thought I'd read a Disney book that quoted Fanon on the cleansing power of violence. I like it!
Dec 04, 2014 rated it liked it
"like final fantasy in africa." i have a perhaps unreasonable amount of anxiety around sci-fi works set on the continent of africa which causes me to flinch around reducing history (yes, even and especially because hegel says africa is outside of history) there to some plugin chronotope in a "like final fantasy in ___" formulation. even though that formulation sounds really cool. i will not make light of the beauty and invention in this novel, and i haven't had time enough with the conventions o ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, ya-childrens, sff
The world this book creates is fantastic. It brims over with creativity and ideas. Ultimately, however, I felt that the plot and characters fell a bit short, and the dialogue was rather stilted, which is why it only gets three stars; but it's worth a read for the sheer brilliance and wonder of the setting.

The characters start off in a future Earth that's been transformed by a mixture of scientific and magical catastrophe and then travel to another world called Ginen; the former is much more inte
Raheem A 8a
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nnedi Okorafor's "The Shadow Speaker" The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi OkoraforThe Shadow Speaker is a very unique and good book. I enjoyed it because it takes place in West Africa, but is still a book full of fantasy and adventure like Percy Jackson. The main character Ejii is my favorite character because even though she is discriminated against because of her shadow speaking abilities, she is ever helpful and understanding. Both girls and boys will love this just right, coming of age story.
Meghan Fidler
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There were no stand-out lines and I took no quotes from the novel. This simplistic style is the defining factor, I suppose, for Okorafor-Machu's novel to be considered 'young adult' literature.
No matter what the intended audience (and the Disney off-shoot Publisher did its best to alienate me, an adult, from the text with a cover so hokey that I refused to bring the book into public space), amazing story telling has the power to captivate any audience. "The Shadow Speaker" has the grammar of a l
Jennifer Bradshaw
I really enjoyed this book. I felt could really identify/be the main character throughout most of the story. I haven't read many books set in Niger and Nigeria, and I enjoyed learning about some folklore of those areas in this science fiction/fantasy story.

I hope to write a longer review at some point.
m. rosa
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Monika Barger
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unforgettable people, creatures, worlds. Complicated, murky, REAL situations. Little mysteries hidden everywhere. My favorite so far I've read from her.
I enjoyed the kickass feminist aspects of the book. The world and how it worked confused me but I dived in. I initially chose it because Diana Wynne Jones has praised the book. It's imaginative and out there and it's rare to read sci-fi by women with female protagonists so 3 stars for that.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is definitely a story for all ages. I really loved the world building, mystical powers, and characters. This was my first read by Nnedi Okorafor and definitely not my last. My next books from Nnedi will definitely be Who Fears Death, The Book of Phoenix, and the Akata Witch series. Thank you, Nnedi! Please consider doing a sequel!
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff, young-adult
Much stronger than the first book! In near-future Nigeria, after a half-cataclysmic, half-utopian change that's merging Earth with fairy worlds (including Gimen, the setting of Zahrah the Windseeker, Ejii goes on a journey to prevent an outbreak of war. Ejii is a shadow speaker: shadows tell her secrets and give her power. She is the child of multiple forces and feuds: her father was a patriarchical tyrant who was beheaded by a female hero; some people distrust her because of her shadowy eyes, s ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is pretty good. It's not the best and I can see kind of were they compared it Harry Potter, but I don't think it really can be compared to Harry Potter.

Here's the summary:
In the book "The Shadow Speaker" by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Ejii, a young girl, is a shadow speaker. A shadow speaker is a person who can get information about people from the shadows who surround her. Many people in that time think shadow speakers were bad-omens, so Ejii was treated horribly by many, and was usually w
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed what this book was trying to say about a lot of social/cultural issues, but I feel it fell a little short. There were some loose ends that needed further explanation, and the climax of the story was too close to the end to truly wrap things up. (view spoiler) I could definitely tell that this was wri ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This YA book mixes feminist and environmentalist messages into a science fantasy quest narrative that involves both aliens and magic. I found it imaginative, but I had a problem with the novel that is a spoiler. (view spoiler) ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Three stars here because I can't give it 3.5.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, in particular the setting and the imagination behind it--I loved the fantastical post-apocalyptic world and how it wasn't complete disaster, though the hardships of the people who lived there were not underestimated. I loved the concept of the main character's ability as a shadow speaker, and I also enjoyed many of the supporting characters.

What made me give the book only three stars was, unfortunate
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have a hard time rating this, because it just so clearly missed the mark with me, but just as clearly would have hit the mark with me twenty years ago. I found the characters too melodramatic and juvenile - all of them, not just the young teens - and very much in service to the plot, versus the plot coming organically from the characters. But the younger me would have loved the grand gestures, the dramatic statements, and the bold heroics, and the struggle Ejii faces as she goes on her journey ...more
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Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults and a professor at the University at Buffalo, New York. Her works include Who Fears Death, the Binti novella trilogy, the Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon. She is the winner of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and her debut novel Zahrah the Windse ...more
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“I want you to write yourself into history because no matter what history books say, even you are a part of it.” 6 likes
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