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Nnamdi's father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?

229 pages, Hardcover

First published August 18, 2020

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About the author

Nnedi Okorafor

155 books15.4k followers
Nnedi Okorafor is a New York Times Bestselling writer of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults. The more specific terms for her works are africanfuturism and africanjujuism, both terms she coined and defined. Born in the United States to two Nigerian (Igbo) immigrant parents and visiting family in Nigeria since she was a child, the foundation and inspiration of Nnedi’s work is rooted in this part of Africa. Her many works include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award and in development at HBO as a TV series), the Nebula and Hugo award winning novella trilogy Binti (in development as a TV series), the Lodestar and Locus Award winning Nsibidi Scripts Series, LaGuardia (winner of a Hugo and Eisner awards for Best Graphic Novel) and her most recent novella Remote Control. Her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker won the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. She lives with her daughter Anyaugo in Phoenix, AZ. Learn more about Nnedi at Nnedi.com and follow Nnedi on twitter (as @Nnedi), Facebook and Instagram.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 411 reviews
Profile Image for Nnedi.
Author 155 books15.4k followers
November 27, 2019
I've read this many times over the years, so I can definitely speak on it, haha.

I’m so excited to present this tale of a black boy embracing his power on his own terms in the face of strife. It’s both a universal and specific narrative, full of mysticism and adventure, and it was an absolute joy to write.
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,401 followers
August 30, 2020
This is a hard moment to be a superhero fan. I was in the middle of reading Ikenga when the news broke about Chadwick Boseman’s death. He was an invaluable part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and was the hero of so many kids, especially black kids, all over the world. So going back into this story after learning of the sudden ending of his was difficult, if I’m being completely honest.

But it was also cathartic, in a way. Ikenga is a middle grade book about a 12 year-old boy in Nigeria who’s father, the former police chief of their town, Kalaria, has recently been killed. Nnamdi is passed down magical powers that he doesn’t fully understand, but he still tries to carry on his father’s legacy and protect his town.

The themes of this book carry the emotional weight of it. Nnamdi and his best friend, Chioma, grapple with grief, friendship and a thirst for justice. Nnamdi in particular struggles to control his feelings of anger at the loss of his father and all the injustices he’s had to put up with since. When he suddenly has all of this strength and power, what is going to do with it? Will he hold himself to a higher standard, or will he succumb to his urge to seek vengeance?

As always, Nnedi Okorafor is such an evocative writer, conveying the world built in her head vividly out onto the page. As many comparisons can be made between this and Black Panther, I also think this book would be great for kids who are fans of Spider-Man. Especially in the way the story is more localized, with Nnamdi trying to protect his town, there’s a lot of overlap between his motivations and those of a character like Peter Parker. But really I can’t think of anyone who I wouldn’t suggest this book to. Even as an adult, I enjoyed the action and arcs just as much as I would have when I was Nnamdi’s age.

Here’s to the next generation he’s inspired. Rest in power

*Thanks to Saga Press and BookishFirst for a finished review copy!
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
533 reviews705 followers
August 19, 2020
I found Ikenga to be a very standard Middle Grade Fantasy read. After the death of his father Nmadi is visited by his spirit and given the Ikenga which gives him the powers to shift into a Hulk-like creature dubbed The Man.

I realize I'm not the target audience for it but I'm not sure how enthralled my younger cousin who is the target would be with this story. Overall I found it very steady but it didn't quite capture me the way some other Middle Grade fantasies have.

I appreciated the look at modern day Nigeria and how their every day life is portrayed. For young kids not used to seeing different cultures represented in the stories they read this will give them a realistic look at Nigeria. I also liked the friendship that Nmadi and Chioma shared.

This is very much a superhero origin story that deals with a criminal underworld and the murder of a parent but tries to keep it PG so it's not too gritty. Some violence happens but it never felt too high stakes. But that also had to do with the writing style as well. At time it felt more tell then show and in MG it definitely needs to be more show.

There were times where I felt Nnedi over-explained things and talked down to the audience a little bit which is something writer's new to Middle Grade sometimes do to the audience not realizing they can infer more than you realize.

There aren't enough Black boy characters in MG so they'll definitely enjoy having a fantasy they can see themselves in.
Profile Image for Jessica Haider.
1,791 reviews260 followers
January 31, 2021
A middle grade fantasy novel by the author of Binti? Yes, please!

I read this book with my 5th grader and after finishing it he declared it "one of the best books you've ever read to me!" He loved it!

Set in Nigeria, this novel has elements of African folklore, mystery and fantasy. Nnamdi is the 11 year old son of the chief of police of their town Kaleria. His father is the best police chief the town has ever had. He readily pushes back the criminals that are trying to invade the town. And then, Nnamdi's dad is murdered. No one knows who killed him. Nnamdi and his mother are left alone. After the death of the police chief the criminal element is free to reign over the town.

On the one year anniversary of his father's death, Nnamdi follows a mysterious figure out of his home's gates and is presented with an Ikenga, a figurine with mystical powers. With the Ikenga in his possession, Nnamdi soon discovers he has new powers. Powers that can help him track down his father's killer and avenge his father's death. BUT, will he be able to control the powers and stay true to his own morals?

This was a great story. It was interesting and engaging throughout. It had lessons about using power for good vs. evil and staying true to yourself. Nnamdi was a relatable character and the author did an excellent job expressing Nnamdi's inner turmoil. We also really liked that the book was set in Africa and gave us a peek at what life is like there.

I highly recommend this book to middle grade and older readers!

The audiobook narrator has a deep soothing accented voice that helped to add to the atmosphere of the book.
Thank you to the author, publisher and BookishFirst for the review copy!
Profile Image for Geoff.
969 reviews96 followers
October 30, 2021
This was an excellent middle grade superhero novel. I like how the powers were stepped in Igbo spiritualism, but nothing was spoon-fed to the reader. The placement of a somewhat traditional hero's journey into the Nigeria setting also helped make things feel fresh and interesting. I have the feeling there is a lot more coming in Nnamdi's story and I can't wait to see it.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,566 reviews365 followers
December 18, 2019
I love Nnedi Okorafor so I was very excited to get an ARC of this.

I think this will appeal to a lot of young readers--I love the American pop culture references combined with the specificity of being grounded in Nigerian culture. However for me, I didn't love it the way I've loved some of her other works--but I'm not exactly the target audience. It's an enjoyable middle grade adventure and I think this will be great for some younger readers who have struggled to find books they can connect to.
Profile Image for Mrs Heidrich.
540 reviews21 followers
March 17, 2021
Absolutely amazing and hard to put down! Thanks so @librofm for the audiobook and Ben Onwukwe was brilliant! This Nigerian based superhero story is action packed; full of twists and turns as well as lessons learned! #mglit #mustread
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,562 reviews197 followers
August 23, 2020
I thought this was going to be a graphic novel since it's about a superhero of sorts, but it was text only. And maybe because the text was written down to a middle school crowd, I found the whole book dreadfully dull to read.

Starting off with nods to Hamlet and Shazam, an 11-year-old Nigerian boy follows the ghost of his murdered father and ends up with the ability to become a powerful seven-foot-tall adult. He intends to use his power to break the crime ring that probably killed his police chief dad, but his new alter ego is very angry and not easily controlled, more Hulk than Captain Marvel.

The story slowly unfolds in odd, and unlikely ways that left me grinding my way to the end instead of being swept along.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,325 reviews143 followers
March 31, 2023
This said "middle grade" in the blurb when I bought it. Boy for that age group I think it's really rather gritty and grim. So please use caution when giving this to kids - some will be just fine with it, but for more sensitive readers this might be a bit too much.

I really enjoyed the fresh feel of a superhero story set in Nigeria! The mix of modern technology, but also a lot of traditional and old ways of live really showed through, and made for fascinating reading.

Crime and corruption is running rampart, and all the best criminals have super villain names, like Three Days Journey for example. The previous chief of police was killed, and now his 12 year old sun, granted with some special powers, is out for... Justice? Revenge? He doesn't know exactly himself. He definitely wants to find his father murderer and not have them go free.

At the start the story was a bit slow, at other times it seemed to skip ahead a bit, when you go from "I have no idea" to "I know exactly, let's go hurt them!" in about a second. I mean this could be how a traumatised 13 year old's brain works, but at times the paced just seemed to go all over the place every so often.

What I really enjoyed was a strong friendship. There's friction and arguments, but there's also a strong sense of loyalty. Even when you're angry, you will be there for your friend, when they need you most, and vice versa. I need more of that!

The characters felt pretty realistic to me, which kids and teens on books often don't, so that's a big plus in my books.

The world also needs a lot more different superheroes from all places, abilities and walks of life, so having The Man is a great thing!
Profile Image for Dana.
755 reviews40 followers
October 21, 2020
Edit 10/21/20:

This was so good! I think many middle graders would enjoy this. Those who are fans of The Hulk and other superheroes and also want to try something new. I think Nnamdi is a strong character; he learns from his mistakes and genuinely tries to do better each time. It's a lesson many young people need to learn about; mistakes don't define you, they make you stronger.

Overall, great for superhero fans grades 4+


I just got this book in the mail from the Goodreads giveaway! I’m actually really excited to get started!!
Profile Image for Josh Hedgepeth.
522 reviews139 followers
January 28, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This was great. I don't read a lot of middle grade, so naturally I was little unsure about this. Although, I found this book extremely engaging.

I really like the writing, and I thought the story was complex and not overly simplified despite being for children. I was granted the audiobook ARC via NetGalley and it was an amazing audiobook. I listen to a lot of audio books, most are fine. This is one of those that I think really excels. I would put it up near Bahni Turpin (not quite there though).

This is the story of a young boy who loses someone close to him, and he comes across something that gives him the ability to turn into a superhero. Then the story explores different ideas about anger, grief and vengeance. To anyone familiar with Nnedi Okorafor, it should be no surprise that the story was so well done.

I'm really glad I was granted this audiobook arc because I wasn't sure if I was going to bother picking it up since it was middle grade. That would have been a mistake because I think this story was just as great as fun as the last Binti novella.

If you are considering picking this up, I absolutely recommend it. 4/5 star book and 5/5 audiobook.
Profile Image for Wendelle.
1,606 reviews38 followers
September 7, 2020
This is an interesting, fast-paced children's book. A young Nigerian boy whose father is a slain police chief gains a superpower, but he doesn't realize it's not smooth sailing even when he tries to use his powers for good. Great powers come with a price to pay, and public opinion against criminals are fickle, and prone to fluctuate between admiration for their perverse wealth and pity for their persecution.
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,295 reviews35 followers
January 26, 2021
4.5 rounded up.
This was so much more than I expected in a children's book. Well developed characters and wonderful descriptions and a storyline that kept me interested.
Profile Image for Paul .
588 reviews29 followers
February 3, 2021
I couldn’t have chosen a better title to be my first audiobook for review… I’ve tried listening to them before and I just get too distracted. But Nnedi Okorafor’s prose paired with the vocal talents of Ben Onwukwe made this a most enjoyable experience. It took me about a chapter to get used to Onwukwe’s accent, and after that it added to the atmosphere of the book perfectly.

Let’s get to the book itself… With an epitaph from Bruce Banner, you know this is gonna be good!

The protagonist is named Nnamdi and he is the son of Kalaria’s late Chief of Police. The novel opens at The Chief’s funeral… the grief, and the responsibility on Nnamdi’s shoulders. A year passes and the killer is not found, and the night of the one-year memorial, Nnamdi’s father visits him. He gives his son a special ebony figure, the Ikenga. With its powers, Nnemdi is able to fight crime and ultimately search for his father’s murderer.

A blend of so many genres I love. There’s the prominent coming of age theme, and the pure superhero vibes. You have to fall for a story that creates such a true blend of ‘with great power’ and teen angst. I also appreciated the setting… the descriptions of food, the names, and the culture of Nigeria. It felt as if I was walking alongside the characters.

I could see myself sharing this story with one of my classes. And I could imagine their eyes lighting up to hear Onwukwe read Okorafor’s words.

5 out of 5 stars

“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” – Bruce Banner from The Incredible Hulk television series.

Profile Image for Erin.
666 reviews21 followers
July 19, 2020
This was a fun read and will be a great addition to our school library. I loved the setting of present-day Nigeria and felt confident in the author's ability to write about it. The villians - so interesting! (Mama Go-Slow, Three Days Journey, Never Die, etc.) The journey that Nnamdi takes with the help of his friends.
Profile Image for SlythJetta.
247 reviews11 followers
September 27, 2020
So, this was a really interesting middle grade arc I received.

You're thrown right into a pool of emotions as the story begins at a funeral of Nnamdi's father who was the chief of police. I was completely taken aback with the abruptness of the intro. Along with the "possible" murderer showing up at his father's funeral to pay their respect.

It was just a really stressful and emotional read (thank God it was a short read or I would not have lasted too long).

I just feel like Nnamdi should have gotten some type of therapy. I mean it did bounce from the funeral to a year later and you could still feel the hatred and hurt this poor kid was suffering. The police force turned their back on his family and 1 of the criminals his father put away attacked his mother.

Nnamdi feels powerless without someone to protect his family. So what does his father's spirit do? Give an emotionally unstable child the gift to turn into this magical being with mega strength.

He is so easily triggered and basically gets worse. Confronting every criminal he suspects played a part in his father's murder and nearly kills them.

I was really upset when he took his anger out on his female friend and was like wtf?!?!?!

It was...very interesting and heartbreaking when Nnamdi finally discovered who killed his father and the petty reason behind it. This was a 1 and done that I would not read again and feel someone studying psychology would have fun dissecting this book.
Profile Image for Lanie Hirsch.
193 reviews
November 27, 2020
This wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I really liked Nnamdi and Chioma's friendship. I appreciated the look at Nigeria and the culture there. Beyond that though, this book just left me wanting more. The writing personally wasn't that great. I feel like it's very simple and when it comes to "show don't tell" this book does a lot telling instead. The plot does not entirely make sense to me, and it feels like there isn't one clear storyline that is consistently driving the book. The murder mystery aspect of the story seemed to be the focus at the beginning and then doesn't come up again until the very end. The middle just seemed to be a jumble of comic book type sequences. I feel like this book is just really lacking something for me, possibly just some more cohesiveness. I do think some middle schoolers would enjoy this because of its relation to superheroes, but for me personally, this wasn't the greatest read.
Profile Image for Lieke.
105 reviews
February 8, 2021
I enjoyed this middle grade book set in Nigeria.
I liked that Nnamdi is questioning if his new found abilities are good or not, but sometimes things came to him very easy while other times it took him very long to realize something.
I think the target audience of this book will enjoy it a lot.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Kayla Hanner.
40 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2020
While I really try to give every book I review five stars, because I know there is always something I find that I've loved in every text I've read, I really just couldn't do that for this novel. Don't get me wrong...I absolutely adored this book and I really enjoyed reading it, but I just felt like it was missing a little something that I think would make this story a bit more concise and entertaining. I absolutely loved reading about Nnamdi's story and his personal growth as a character, especially when he sets out to avenge the murder of his father, but I felt like the story really didn't develop and progress exactly how I expected it to over the course of the text. I felt as if the murder aspect of the story kind of faded into the background until the end, when it all comes back to what Nnamdi set out to do in the beginning, and I think that the rushed nature of the text left a bit more to be desired from the story. While this is a story that is extremely interesting and unique, and represents a culture that doesn't often get representation in Young Adult literature settings, I think a little bit more to the story would've sent this text over the top. I really enjoyed this novel, and I think if you have any desire to read it, you'll love it too! It's a text for middle grades and up, and I think most high school students would enjoy giving this a read as well.
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 23 books425 followers
February 4, 2021
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy for Ikenga's audiobook.

Ikenga is a fairly standard 'child discovers powers' story and it's narrator does an incredible job of delivering it. I felt like I was transported back to elementary school circle time. Some middle grade books have a pretty wide audience appeal, but this one just didn't have that impact on me which has nothing to do with the content or writing and everything to do with me being outside of the target demographic. This is still a wonderful read if you're looking for middle grade superheroes.
Profile Image for Mikala Charron.
691 reviews13 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished-books-bailed'
November 19, 2020
Just not in the mood to read this right now, which is too bad.
Profile Image for Lisa Boyd.
596 reviews12 followers
March 2, 2021
This is an awesome book. There is a bit of death at the beginning of the novel and it does get a little grim so recommended for a read-along with grown-ups or a true middle-grade audience. The audiobook was AMAZING
Profile Image for Jenn.
2,278 reviews9 followers
July 5, 2020
A great superhero-in-the-real-world story set in Nigeria. Nnamdi is authentic and personable, his anger, grief, and kindness are palpable. This is a great book for those who loved Akata Witch and Tristan Strong books.
August 8, 2020
A huge thank you to Netgalley and Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From the acclaimed author of Akata Witch and Binti, comes a middle-grade book about a boy yearning for justice who gains the power he desires to make a difference. A year after the death of his father, the honorable chief of police of Kaleria, 12-year old Nnamdi remains filled with grief and anger over his father’s unsolved murder. Everyone believes the Chief of Chiefs, the kingpin of Kaleria’s criminal world, is responsible, but everyone feels powerless to do anything, especially Nnamdi. One night, the ghost of his father visits him and gives him a gift, an Ikenga. The Ikenga gives him the power he craves, but at what cost? Will he be able to channel his newfound powers to find justice for his father and protect his beloved town from being overrun by crime? Or will his rage consume him instead? Read Ikenga to find out. Available starting August 18, 2020.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so that I read the entirety of it in one sitting. It gives a wonderful glimpse into Nigerian life and culture. I especially loved all the mention of the different food. And you best believe, I googled all of them and plan to try some of the recipes I found.

Our protagonist Nnamdi is a huge superhero fan and this made Nnamdi getting super powers extra fun to read about because he gets to reference his favourite superheroes. But the story also highlights the difference between superhero stories and real life. Nnamdi learns that things aren’t always black and white and things are not always what they seem.

One of the main themes of the story is the importance of dealing and controlling our emotions, and not letting it cloud our judgement or consume us. This book also explores themes of injustice and corrupt systems which can open larger conversations with young readers. Ikenga is a story filled with action and heart and I would definitely recommend this book to teachers and librarians everywhere. I myself will be recommending this to the kiddos at our library.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,751 reviews101 followers
August 31, 2021
Nnamdi's father was trying to curb the horrible crime rate in their city. And he was just starting to see progress as the police chief, when someone murdered him. It has been a year now, and there's no break in his father's murder case. But on the anniversary of his father's death, Nnamdi sees his father. His dad gives him an ikenga and asks Nnamdi to use it to find his murderer. The ikenga allows Nnamdi to transform into a huge man who can intimidate criminals into confessing, but it also makes Nnamdi's anger hard to control. Can he master these powers before they turn him into a murderer himself?

If you imagine a statute giving a kid Hulk-like powers in an African city so he can solve his father's murder, then you've pretty much got the gist of this story. Even Nnamdi mentions that the ikenga turns him into something very Hulk-like, including the anger issues. The mystery aspect of this had Nnamdi chasing down all sorts of unsavory figures in the neighborhood, from pickpockets to car thieves to kidnappers, but he goes on a lot of false trails and doesn't really figure out the murder more than stumble across the answer. I would've appreciated more clues and less blind guessing. This gets a little violent thanks to the anger issues and big muscles Nnamdi has when he transforms into the man. He almost beats more than one person to death, and felt more violent than the average middle grade book. There's also a lot of serious crime lords he deals with, so I might shelve it in YA in our library for that reason. I listened to the audio book for several chapters and the narrator did a fabulous job with the voices.

Notes on content: A couple of uses of profanity. No sexual content, but Nnamdi does stumble across a married man who has been taken by a very pretty thief he let in his office he says just to have a drink with but Nnamdi is very skeptical. As mentioned, there are several fight scenes and they usually end up with someone very beat up. Nnamdi's father's death is mentioned multiple times. A kidnapping ring is uncovered and neglected people are found. Corruption is running rampant in the city.
Profile Image for Anita.
963 reviews11 followers
February 8, 2021
Twelve-year-old Nnamdi and his mother are devastated when his father, the Chief of Police, is shot and killed. But when the town of Kaleria's highest criminal big-whig comes to his father's funeral, sporting a ring identical to his father's, he pees his pants in fear. A year goes by, and he's no closer to getting revenge on his father's killer, when he thinks he recognizes his father's broad back and green beret in the street.

It's his father's spirit, come to warn him of a future Kaleria going up in flames, and he gives his son an Ikenga, a sort of smallish figurine Nnamdi puts in his pocket. Almost immediately after, he hears cries of help from a woman being carjacked by Three Days Journey, a notorious car thief, and he grows to huge, Hulk-ish proportions and beats up Three Days Journey and saves the woman and her car.

It takes Nnamdi a while to figure out what's going on, where his shadow powers come from. In the process, he alienates his best friend, Chioma. But once he figures out what he can do with the Ikenga's powers, and how not to turn into a rage-filled killer when he's infused with its powers, he starts to target Kaleria's criminals.

At the top of his list: the man he believes killed his father, the Chief of Chiefs. But all is not exactly as it seems in Kaleria's criminal underworld, and more than one person had reasons to kill his father. So who was his father's killer?

I originally picked this up expecting, from the cover, a scary story, but it was more of a murder mystery. I liked that it didn't, like many MG stories, shy away from children seeing death, or being afraid of hurting others and dealing with those feelings when they did, even if those they hurt were "deserving" criminals.

Visit my blog for more great middle grade book recommendations, free teaching materials and fiction writing tips: https://amb.mystrikingly.com/
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