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Who Fears Death

(Who Fears Death #1)

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  18,079 ratings  ·  2,599 reviews
An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, sh
...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by DAW Hardcover
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
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Richard Derus
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post- apocalyptic Africa. 

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl
...more
Zanna
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read my first Octavia Butler novel, Dawn, late in 2014, and late in my life! Reading it I was like oh no black women authored speculative fiction, where have you been all my life? (right there on the shelf being read by millions of folk in the know while I wasted my time, obviously) This is my favourite kind of thing to read, hands down, it hits my reading spot mmmm. This isn't a book of sublimely polished prose where the writer has clearly agonised over every adverb, but the ease and directne ...more
Zach
I've kept an eye on Nnedi Okorafor's career for a while now. Her books always intrigued me-I have a hard time resisting anything post-apocalyptic,* and hers are set in Africa, a great antidote to the typical lily-white American version-but the fact that they were always targeted at young adults kept me away. I like books to have some subtlety about them, paragraphs that don't have the same words in each sentence, lines of dialogue that don't end with "she said ___ly." (To be fair these are certa ...more
ambyr
A number of reviewers have talked about how they struggled with how dark the book was; how difficult it was to read accounts of rape and genital mutilation and racial genocide. There would, I think, be something wrong with me if I didn't find reading about that sort of thing viscerally unpleasant, but all were integral parts of the book's world building, and while they may have made reading some sections an uncomfortable experience, they didn't detract from my appreciation of the work as a whole ...more
Wealhtheow
Aug 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: feminist sf fans
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 ...more
Julie
This Amazon review actually sums up my feelings pretty well. 2.5 stars, rounded up for what this book attempted to do, but it doesn't deliver on its promising setup/start. It's an ambitious novel, tackling the subjects that were stewing in Okorafor's mind -- weaponised rape, genocide, racism & sexism, female genital mutilation, problematic cultures. But it's strung together into a really flimsy plot with a boringly straightforward quest structure, with exposition dumps, few surprises along the w ...more
♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ
0 Flawed, imperfect creatures! ★'s

“To be something abnormal meant that you were to serve the normal. And if you refused, they hated you... and often the normal hated you even when you did serve them.”

*First buddy read with Marie Luftikus

I was so looking forward to reading "Who Fears Death" but sadly, all I'm left with is the disappointment! If it wasn't for this being a buddy read, I would have DNF at 12%! In the long run, we both agreed to call it quits at 50%!!! Thank freaking goodne
...more
Liz Janet
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
In a post-apocalyptic Sudan, Onyesonwu (Igbo for “who fears death”) lives, being the offspring of the rape a Nuru man imposed upon a woman of the oppressed Okeke. After she has grown, she goes on a search to destroy her father, a sorcerer, using her own magic.

I read somewhere that this book was partially inspired by Emily Wax’s 2004 Washington Post article “We Want to Make a Light Baby,” which spoke of weoponized rape the Arab military men used against Black women during the Dafur conflict. And
...more
Trudie
Oct 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
I tried.
I know there are great reviews of this out there and Nnedi Okorafor has won a Hugo and a Nebula and a slew of other awards. So it's a case of this just isn't my thing rather than it's a bad book.

I made it over half way when I decided I might have just waded too far in this desert landscape.

To start with the positives -
I liked the setting of this book, some sort of post-apocalyptic Sudan complete with genocides and FGM, thus even though this is a fantasy novel, it is dealing with many r
...more
Maxwell
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What makes you think that you should understand it all?” he asked. “That’s a lesson you have to learn, instead of being angry all the time. We’ll never know exactly why we are, what we are, and so on. All you can do is follow your path all the way to the wilderness, and then you continue along because that’s what must be.”

What a unique reading experience. I've truly never read a fantasy book like this one. Okorafor has crafted a superbly realized world, that of post-apocalyptic Sudan, where
...more
Jon
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
My feelings about this book are mixed and that makes it a difficult book to review and rate. To start with, it wasn’t anything like what I expected. The book was nominated for a Nebula (one of the premiere sci-fi awards) when it was published and the blurb states that the novel takes place in a far future, post-apocalyptic Africa. Visions of something similar to M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City danced in my head when I read this. I was picturing a future wasteland of rusted cities and abandone ...more
Sarah
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I somehow missed the fact that this book was meant to be post-apocalyptic (not a spoiler - apparently everyone knew it but me) until near the end, and therefore read it as a tale set in an alternate magical Africa. It had all of the touchstones of a fantasy quest, right down to the villain's all-seeing eye, albeit in a decidedly different setting. I had to recalibrate partway through, but I was so caught up that I didn't mind.

This is an excellent story, blending quest, myth, magic, cautionary t
...more
Bradley
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to get through for one primary reason: the violence toward women. It's never easy to read. Getting sick to my stomach mars my enjoyment of what is an otherwise fantastic and rich fantasy with all the standard tropes of apprenticeship, tragedy, and sacrifice.

If I could get beyond the rather horrible institutionalized brutality, (and I kinda have to in order to finish the book,) then what is left is a rather great dystopian fantasy, totally post-apocalyptic, that shows hints o
...more
Gabrielle
While I had been underwhelmed by the “Binti” series (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I had enjoyed Okorafor’s writing enough to pick up her other (non-YA) books, and reading “Who Fears Death” seems to simply confirm that my intuition was right: she is a fantastic writer with a rich imagination, but most YA stuff just doesn’t cut it for me. While this is a coming of age story, it is definitely not for younger audiences, and it was a much more satisfying read (to me, at least) than her ...more
Craig
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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, tel ...more
Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

Onyesonwu is a fierce young women who sets out to face who she is and discover her destiny in the process. The Nuru seek to oppress Okeke people, the violence and pain that they inflict on the Okeke was disturbing to read about. Onyesonwu's mother uses the pain she felt when she was raped to move forward and heroically rebuilds a life for herself when she survives. The well written descriptions of magic and African Spirituality made me want to learn more
...more
Viv JM
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways, Who Fears Death is an archetypal hero(ine)'s quest tale. There's a prophecy, an apprenticeship and an arduous journey. What sets this apart is the unusual protagonist (a tall, mixed race sorceress with anger management issues) and setting (a kind of post-apocalyptic fantasy desert landscape). Although this is a fantasy novel - or maybe because it is a fantasy novel? - Okorafor manages to tackle some big themes of endemic racism and misogyny. I thought her treatment of FGM was excep ...more
Jack Lanigan
Dec 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Audiobook!

Ooh buddy. Oh boy oh boy. Feels like a while since I had one of these, a book that I just completely unabashedly hated. Good stuff. I don't know if I want to write a little narrative or weave my thoughts into sentences so instead I'm just going to bullet point stuff and complain about it. Starting with...

The Narrator
So we've got a story about far future Africa. It stars a young girl growing up in this messed up world, deeply inspired by juju and shamanism and all that sort of thing. Ob
...more
Frankenburger
Jul 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
So there's this lady, and she lives in Africa where things aren't so great. In fact, one day she gets RAPED. She gets RAPED so hard that apparently enough semen pours out of her to make a hentai proud. As luck would have it, she gets a pregnant, and so our story begins.

This is the tale of Onyesonwu, a girl who's as obnoxious as she is mad. She doesn't think life is all that fair to the women in ol' Africa, and so she sets out to learn juju so that she can take revenge on her father (the guy who
...more
Allison Hurd
Okay. You were right. I was wrong. I should not have read this book. I hope you're happy now. I can see why people loved it--there were so many meaningful moments. But it was sort of like psychic warfare for me, so I had to focus on construction and the combination of the warfare and the issues I had with construction made it one of my least favorite finished books this year. The third or fourth ending was really cool though.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)
...more
Tudor Vlad
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Not sure how I feel about this. The first 300 pages were amazing, but after that it completely lost me. Not that it was bad, but I just couldn't focus on what was happening, I don't know if it was the book or the fact that I wasn't feeling well because of my cold. Even so, it redressed itself in the last chapters, and I'm really happy with the ending.
Lata
A brutal, difficult read. So much animosity and violence against women, with a volatile and powerful main character who constantly challenges the norm and fights to protect those she cares for while enduring numerous sorcerous challenges.
Arielle
I don't know exactly why, but I can't get into Nnedi Okorafor's writing at all. It certainly isn't bad, by any means. There are moments of incredible beauty, a raw power to the words and the stories and characters are completely unique. I just always feel that the stories she tells are almost too big for her to control, something in the writing is fighting the confines of the pages and so the stories jump around and sense is lost - just enough to make reading a chore instead of a pleasure - or e ...more
Megan Baxter
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
There seems to be a small sub-genre of books that straddle the science fiction/fantasy line in a very particular way - post-apocalyptic futures with some forms of magic. Some of them explain the magic away as technology that isn't recognized as such anymore, while others genuinely have supernatural powers afoot in the world, in and amongst the wreckage of computers and other things recognizably late 20th/early 21st century.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goo
...more
Timothy Urges
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beware of your ignorance.

Conceived by violence, a child is born inheriting that violence and its consequences. A sorceress must earn her wings.

Who Fears Death is a coming-of-age novel dealing with adult concepts. Rape is a prominent factor in every aspect of this book. Women, cultures, and ideas are abused and used for the empowerment of others. One woman rises up to challenge the past and to challenge the future of humanity. History may have to rewrite itself.
Kelly
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"To be something abnormal meant that you were to serve the normal. And if you refused, they hated you... and often the normal hated you even when you did serve them."

In Nnedi Okorafor’s post-apocalyptic Sudan, there are two predominant ethnic factions: the light-skinned Nuru and the dark-skinned Okeke. Who Fears Death takes place amid a genocide that the Nuru commit against the Okeke, a campaign that (like genocides in our own time) includes both murder and rape. The mixed-race offspring of a Nu
...more
Jess
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
*Spoilers*

I wanted to like this more than I did. I was quite looking forward to reading some African fantasy, especially by a female author. It's a refreshing change to the majority of vaguely medieval European male-dominated quest fantasies that are ubiquitous in the genre. I mean, I love LOTR as much as the next person, but China Miéville's comments on the inherent conservatism of much fantasy is definitely something I'd agree with. I realise that I also nearly fell into the trap that other r
...more
Laurel Amberdine
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(Copy of my Amazon review)

Set in an alternate/post-apocalyptic/futuristic African desert (with magic) "Who Fears Death" opens with a teenage Onyesonwu at her father's funeral. Grieving, she briefly and unintentionally starts to bring him back to life. She is a sorcerer, feared and hated because of her powers and her parentage. Her abilities, though spectacular, mostly endanger her and cause her suffering. But they also lead her on a quest to save her mother's people from impending war, slavery,
...more
✨Sumi's Books✨
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Torn...
Onyesonwu is a child of rape (outcast) with magical powers that must go on an epic quest to stop the genocide of her mother's people.
This book has some very touching moments as well as some very meaningful ones. However, this book contains TONS of triggers such as vividly describing rape and mutilation scenes as well as other tender subject matters. I personally was not prepared for these as I try not to read reviews of books before I pick them up from my personal library. I fear that it
...more
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Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author of African-based science fiction and fantasy (Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism). Okorafor has won a Hugo, a Nebula, a World Fantasy Award, and a Locus Award, and her many fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, and Ursula Le Guin. She is writing a series for Marvel about Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, and has a number of book-based project ...more

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