Alison's Reviews > Zahrah the Windseeker

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
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Apr 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: confident-readers-chapter-books

An "other worlds" fantasy with a Science Fiction feel. Zahrah lives in the city of Kirki, in Ooni Kingdom, planet Ginen. In her world humans have harnassed the natural world to technology- for example PCs literally grow on trees, and the currency is flower petals.

Zahrah is born with vines growing through her hair, linking her closely to the natural world: she is dada, having the power to fly. Despite this Zahrah is timid and frightened by her own powers. She has been bullied by her classmate because of her hair. Her best friend, Dari, is the only one not afraid of her; he is fearless and unwilling to accept the received wisdom that the Forbidden Greeny Jungle on the edge of the city is a dangerous place.

It is Dari who prompts Zahrah to visit the Dark Market, full of juju artefacts, to find out more about her dada powers, and who insists that they visit the Greeny Jungle. While there, Dari is bitten by a war snake, and only Zahrah can get the antidote from the Greeny Jungle to wake him from his coma.

This was a great, engrossing read. It has some nice nods to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxybut it would not spoil your enjoyment if you hadn't read these books. I really enjoyed the West African elements of the story (the African clothing, references to juju and highlife music for example), and these felt integral to the story rather than an exotic back drop to characters who could have been of any ethnicity.

There are a couple of quibbles- I felt that there was an over-reliance on exclamation marks to convey excitement/ danger, and some slightly cliched language, but this is really nit-picking. I look forward to reading more of Okorafor's work, and sincerely hope that she gets a UK publisher. I'd love to see these in the schools I've taught in North London, where good quality books reflecting the diverse community are sadly lacking, particularly in the very white, heteronormative fantasy genre.
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