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Who Fears Death

(Who Fears Death #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  13,887 ratings  ·  2,077 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
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by DAW Hardcover
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3.96  · 
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 ·  13,887 ratings  ·  2,077 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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 goodness t
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 t ...more
Liz Janet
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
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
Oct 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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
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
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
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
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
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
Auntie Terror
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-urban
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.
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
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.
juan carlos
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le invertí un mes a este libro de fantasía Africana y puedo decir que había momentos demasiado lentos. Capítulos muy redundantes. Sin embargo el final fue muy bueno y valió la pena el tiempo invertido.

¿Para qué leer Quién teme a la muerte?

A) Por el universo creado por la autora. Fue formidable. No sólo le dio un contexto orografico e hidrográfico. Sino que además le dio una función a cada raza, a cada villano y a cada familia.
b) Su sistema de magia no tuvo ningún cabo suelto, con un gran suste
Jack Lanigan
Dec 12, 2016 rated it did not like it

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
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
Arielle Walker
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
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
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
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,
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was my first fantasy novel written by a person of colour. Nnedi Okarafor is a the 2016 Hugo award winner.It is also interesting that Nnedi is the voice behind Ngozi,or the black panther,a female Nigerian super hero for Marvel comics.
Onyensowu ia "Ewu" a child of rape , who is brought up by her Okeke mother in post apocalyptic Sudan. She has magic powers and realizes that someone is waiting to murder her . She sets out to conquer this evil with her lover Mwitah and their friends .
Naz (Read Diverse Books)
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars
For the full review, visit my blog: Read Diverse Books

If you’ve read countless Fantasy novels and are aching for new experiences, Who Fears Death will not disappoint on that front. It is imaginative, bold, memorable, and an essential read for anyone looking to explore Afrofuturism. However, the story’s narrative arc is not perfect and the world doesn’t always feel fully-realized. Despite its flaws, though, Okorafor’s talent and unique vision are undeniable and the world she has created
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this because it was one of the Nebula Award winners for 2010, and I just couldn't put it down. It really felt fresh and different - a post-apocalyptic Africa where people have abandoned most technology, and two tribes are at war. Onyesonwu is Ewu - a child of rape, obvious because of the color of her skin, and this is the story of how she takes ownership of her abilities. The author doesn't shy away from really serious background issues like ethnic cleansing, genital mutilation, slavery - ...more
Bryan Alexander
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Who Fears Death is a powerful fantasy novel, one well suited to our time's concerns.

It takes place in a future east Africa, after some unspecified disaster. The plot concerns the life of Onyesonwu, a sorceress born of rape in a race war. It's a bildungsroman as well as a tale of revenge, seen through lenses of race and gender.

The gender aspect loomed largest for me, partly because I'm reading at a point in American culture (June 2016) very concerned with sexism and gender identity. The world of
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Who Fears Death" buddy read 19 27 Mar 14, 2019 11:49PM  
21st Century Lite...: Who Fears Death - Part III 22 28 Feb 10, 2019 09:04PM  
21st Century Lite...: Who Fears Death - General Discussion, No Spoilers 11 37 Jan 31, 2019 09:06AM  
21st Century Lite...: Who Fears Death - Parts I & II 19 34 Jan 25, 2019 06:36PM  
You'll love this ...: November 2018 - Who Fears Death 40 30 Nov 30, 2018 05:31AM  

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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

Other books in the series

Who Fears Death (2 books)
  • The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)
“Flawed, imperfect creatures! That's what we both are, oga! That's what we ALL are!” 892 likes
“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.” 23 likes
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