D's Reviews > Akata Witch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
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did not like it

If you're looking for an interesting example of non-Eurocentric worldbuilding, then pick up this book. If you're looking for a good plot and sound characterisation, you can probably find better.

In terms of setting, this book is fantastic: it's interesting, different and a nice change from the super-Euro default setting of most urban fantasy novels. The world-building, although we're not shown much outside of the character's immediate area, is fantastic and gives a good impression of what the global situation is in this universe, not just the local one.

The novel also focuses on female characters, and their families play an important (if background) role to the story. The characters themselves are fairly diverse, with Igbo as well as other tribes represented, and physical traits like albinism appearing alongside mental ones like dyslexia. So that was nice! As someone with dyslexia, I found the depiction of it to be a little baffling, but the fact it is even shown was nice.

However, while the world-building is great, I found the plot weak and the characters unbelievable. The adult characters are all alternatively useless and terrible, and the children are placed with an absurd amount of responsibility for no discernible reason - although the older characters consistently say they'll explain later, you'll never get an explanation worth the suspension of belief. Even a pokey explanation would have been better, because the alternative is that all the adult characters come across as mildly psychopathic, and/or possibly trying to kill and/or tramuatise these kids in the weirdest, most off-handed way.

The child protagonists aren't much better. Their personalities are not very well defined - apart from his casual sexism, it's hard for me to think of ways that Sunny, the protagonist, is different from her young schoolmate Orlu. Part of this is because the characters don't really grow throughout the novel. They undergo a number of different tramuatising events, but they never actually experience consequences - for example, although a man is killed directly in front of them and the children are all horrified, they get over it in a handful of pages and it is never mentioned again. This is a consistent theme throughout the book, and is exemplified in the final scenes. Things may happen to the characters, but if they're not affected by them, then what's the point?


Finally, as the most minor issue, I found the book's handling of American blacks to be slightly strange. The primary protagonist is from America, but identifies primarily as Nigerian throughout the book, which is not the issue. The problem is that the only American who identifies as such is Sasha, who is a juvenile delinquent who refers to himself "as a descendent of slaves and such", cracks jokes about soul food, "cornbread, fried chicken and collared greens" and whom other characters constantly talk about his weird, girly name. Any of those traits by themselves would be fine, but when he is also the only character that continuously brings up racism and those are all his defining characteristics, it gets weird.

ETA, 10/17/2018: I wrote this review when I was a great deal more mealy-mouthed than I am today, so for clarification: I find this book's handling of American blacks to be explicitly racist, in case the descriptions above don't make that entirely clear, and more a caricature of what people think the culture is / the people within it are than an actual portrayal of a genuine character.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
November 20, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Ingrid I agree, I gave it 150 pages then put it down. I was really excited about reading a book outside the white western world bubble. This book however just didn't have enough going for it.


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