Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch

Nnedi Okorafor

World Fantasy Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor weaves together a story of magic, mystery, and finding one's place in the world--for fans of Ursula Le Guin and Diana Wynne Jones.

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Affectionately dubbed "the Nigerian Harry Potter," Akata Witch weaves together a heart-pounding tale of magic, mystery, and finding one's place in the world.

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Ursula K. Le Guin and John Green are Nnedi Okorafor fans. As soon as you start reading Akata Witch, you will be, too! 

From the Hardcover edition.

Advance Galley Reviews

Akata Witch is being likened as the Nigerian Harry Potter. I am always skeptical when a book is compared to Harry Potter. I learned my lesson with The Bone Season. However, I think the description is apt for Akata Witch. Sunny Nwazue is a twelve year old girl who lives in Nigeria but was born in America. This makes her an "akata," a rude word for foreigner. To top it off, she is also albino. On her way home from school one day, Sunny meets ChiChi. ChiChi introduces Sunny to the secretive, eccentric world of the Leopard People. Leopard People are those who have and can manipulate juju. Sunny is delighted to find out she herself is a Leopard Person. Soon, Sunny and her friends are tasked with finding and stopping Black Hat Otokoto, a mysterious figure who has been killing local children recently. Others have tried to stop Black Hat Otokoto before Sunny and her gang, and none have lived to tell the tale. This is a tall task, one that Sunny and company may not be up to. To say I enjoyed Akata Witch is an understatement. So much of YA fantasy is generic nowadays. Everything seems to be cut from the same mold. But not Akata Witch. This book is unique, exciting, eccentric, delightful, entertaining. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. If you're tired of the same old, same old and crave something different, something new, pick up Akata Witch.

When I first began to read this book, I was unaware that this was for middle school children. It took me a little while to adjust at first, but once I realized who the target audience was, I had a better grasp of the story. I really liked the cultural elements that are infused into this story. The author does a great job of integrating them and explaining them in a graceful and sophisticated manner; nothing feels too simplified or "dumbed down". It was really cool to read about all of these rituals and customs that are practiced and upheld, and it was just a great introduction to the culture. The story itself is pretty much like Harry Potter. You've got your group of friends and they are against an evil foe and they practice magic and learn about their abilities and have to pass tests to move up in levels. I felt that the story and writing could have used some polishing. Too many things were conveniently placed and there were many abrupt and awkward transitions in the book. The characters could also have been a bit stronger. Overall, I can see how this novel would appeal to middle schoolers and I would recommend it to any child between the ages of 8-13 who likes Harry Potter-like fantasy novels.

This was a fun book, one that I can't wait for younger kids to read. For me, the reading level was a bit low and sometimes developments in the story felt a little *too* convenient, considering these kids were supposed to be fighting a powerful evil force. However, that's fairly common for a middle grade book, so I don't consider it a huge fault. Overall this was a fun book with incredibly world building and a diverse group of characters. It's exciting to see new books come out that aren't so Eurocentric and highlight the culture of African countries, like Nigeria. It's important that a book for younger kids addresses racism, class, and sexism, and this book does all that.

Before I first started Akata Witch, I wasn't sure what to expect. A few chapters in and I was in love with the setting and the magical system. I really enjoyed this book except for the fact that the character's ages didn't quite make sense for me. Given how complicated and intricate the world-building was, it seemed odd to have characters who were so young. It felt as if the book was aimed at two separate audiences at some points. Additionally, there were some themes that could have been developed more if the main characters had been older. This book did contain some fantastic world-building and wonderful mythology. I think this is a wonderful middle grade read, although parts of it may seem a tad young for older readers.

We've all read this story. It's an old standard that's possibly been around, in one form or another, for millennia: A young person (in our case a girl, Sunny Nwazue,) an outsider bullied by her family and peers, discovers that she has within her a talent, a power, and with her few friends goes on to save the world from a horrible villain. What makes this story worth reading is the atypical setting, the atypical style of magic, and the atypically excellent skill of the author to present a character that one cares for within a world that some people today might believe actually exists! The story is set in Nigeria, where some people do have a belief in Voodoo, so when Sunny, an emigrant from the United States, starts to display a talent for juju and becomes identified as a “Leopard Person” (an actual cult in Nigeria,) the boundary between reality and fantasy becomes quite blurry for the reader. Is the author, Nnedi Okorafor, describing a fantasy world of her own creation or is she describing, or at least mixing in, elements of the Voodoo beliefs and juju practices that play a part in the lives of some present day Nigerians? Whatever the answer, Akata Witch takes full advantage of the mystique and the ambivalence. As Nnedi's world slides between reality and fantasy, so does her protagonist, Sunny. She is interstitial, someone between, sliding from a 21st century reality of school bullies and a father who beats her to a way of dealing with the world through magic; from a material realm to a spiritual realm; from an American girl with Nigerian parents to a Nigerian emigre, not completely accepted. She is a black girl who is an albino. She is someone who exists between realities but partakes in all. Although the story is directly aimed at the middle school / young adult market, any adult with an interest in a fascinating take on a very ethnically-based fantasy would enjoy it. I certainly did! My only complaint about the story and the reason I'm giving it four stars rather than five is the way the climax was handled. I felt that the particular nature of Sunny's ability at that crucial juncture required more extensive foreshadowing, as it had a distinct deus ex machina flavor without that elaboration. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed reading this story, and I'm so glad that more books about people of color, especially young, black books are being published. I read straight through, and wished that there was a book like this while I was in middle school, so I could get into Igbo (and other West African) mythologies then, instead of just being interested in European mythologies. Really amazing, and I'm going to read the sequel. Though, I did have one problem. I had trouble reconciling Sunny's age (well all the Oha coven's ages) for some reason?

This was a book I had trouble putting down! I quickly got pulled into Sunny's story and those of the people around her. It was nice to see a different cultural view of magic, as well. Overall, a very good read.

I love the story or friendship and magic coming for a totally different view/culture. Think of the Harry Potter version of Africa! I am far from being middle grade but I still really enjoyed the story. It wasn't overwhelming to intake the world building (and that's coming from someone with very little cultural background of Africa's beliefs/folklore/etc). I can assume the characters will get older as the series progress like the Harry Potter series. I actually can't wait for the next book! Also I applaud the author for staying true to her roots and respectful while not shying away from what others may feel as sensitive topics (physical abuse/discipline, death, kidnapping, racism, sexism, humanity's greed and etc).

The imaginative tale of a young girl in Nigeria discovering her true magical heritage is an excellent read for any age. Sunny was born in America of Nigerian parents and they move back when she's 9. She's also an albino, so she's doubly separate from the world. The theme of duality plays a continuous role in the background, especially when Sunny is forced to lead a double life as a result of her discovering her "Leopard" (magical) status. Along the way to a fantastic magical confrontation, she makes friends, finds herself, and discovers that there's more to the world than she ever thought possible.

Oh my gosh! This book was so good! I hated putting it down! The characters, the story, wondering what was going to happen next. I absolutely loved it! Can't wait to read the 2nd one! Highly recommend!

This middle grade/YA fantasy is steeped in the myth and magic of Nigeria. It takes you on a fantastic journey to the country of Nigeria and introuduces to the mystery of JuJu through the eyes of sunny almost like a african virgin of Harry Potter in ways. You have a character who knows nothing of the Leopord People but knows she has a grandmother who was thought of as odd. Her mother trys to shield her but just like Harry the juju finds her and she is drawn into this world. Their evil character that needs to be taken down just like Voldermort and Sunny ends up being this savior to do just that. I loved learning more about Nigeria through this characters eyes and i think this will be a great hit.

I thought this was a really riveting book. Full of magic and mystery and friendship and personal growth and strength it definitely had me reading late into the night to finish the book. I would say it's more for the younger crowd as the main characters are mostly 12 or 13 but still a really great fun book.

Love love loved this book. It was one of those books where I wanted to know how the story ended while at the same time not wanting the story to end. I found Sunny and her friends great complements of each other. They all had their distinct personalities, strengths and ways about themselves but those traits brought out the best (and sometimes the worse) in the others. The struggle for Sunny to find her place in the world is something that I could definitely relate to and the fact that she is a girl in a male dominated society adds another layer of complexity as well as the fact that she is an albino girl. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I cannot wait for the next installment.

This book was really interesting. It was a bit hard for me to get into at first because I don't usually read stories with such young characters. This made it a bit more difficult to connect with them. That being said, the fact that this story was set in Nigeria was fascinating. I don't think I've ever read a story set there before, and the author's writing really made the world of this book come alive. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a unique, refreshing read.

Loved it! Not sure why I didn't pick it up sooner, it's absolutely wonderful! I really enjoyed the cultural details and mythology of Nigeria as well as how the author used physical abnormalities and learning disorders such as albinoism, scoliosis, and dyslexia as an indicator of strong ?magical abilities. I also thought the characters were well developed and relatable. My only issue was with the climax. There was such a strong buildup for an ultimately underwhelming ending. Overall, I found it to be a wonderful story that fans of Harry Potter will likely enjoy. I can't wait to read Akata Warrior to see what happens next! *Thanks to First to Read for the arc!*

I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my honest review: This was such a great book. 4 Stars and all the Copper Chittim for the author. Before I go any further some housekeeping: Reading age : Appropriate for 10+ years old. I would give 9 years-old me this book to read and it would be a blast! Cliffhanger : Nope! But anticipating the sequel. So much potential. *ZEE* QUOTE : "There are no Lamb cultures where people do not strive for this inferior thing called perfection" Favourite part: The"Fast Facts for Free Agents"! SO. MUCH. INTERNALIZATION. This book is billed the Nigerian Harry Potter but I disagree. It reminds me more of Laini Taylor's "Daughter of smoke and bone" trilogy. Indeed, while "Akata witch" can be viewed as a wizardely coming of age tale set in ~~~exoctic~~~ Nigeria, it is much deeper than that and more layered than HP could ever be. Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha are much more relatable and realistic characters. The Author masterfully weaves in the difficult dynamics of Culture and Subcultures and how they intersect and clash sometimes depending on which side of the fence one is. It begs the question of what is the Self in regards of the (African/North American) Diaspora. The author adress the infamous Diaspora wars ["Akata Witch" OMG she went there] with great humour, a spoonful of tenderness and a pinch of cynisism. Nnedi Okorafor also gives its dues to the splendid plurality of the Cultures of the African continent and of the Diaspora. But the thing that I would applaud the most is that none of that stuff jumps right in your face. If you know nothing about Diaspora wars, all you'll see is a world divided in 2. On one side you have the regular folks, The Lambs, and the Magically Gifted Leopard People on the other. There is no Manichean divide; there is good and bad within both factions. In the Mist of it all stands one young imperfect girl, which is neither here or there, navigating her way through the world with the help of her friends. She will learn that "We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual selves". Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha will learn that "There are more valuable things in life than safety and comfort. Learn. You owe it to yourself". I will end my rambling now, but Yes I will recommend this book to any teen I know, because this book is magical yet real. It’s intriguing yet familiar. And the lessons to be learned while pretty standard are always a good refresher. 4/5 because of some pacing issues. Thank you so much to First to read for providing me with a copy!

“Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom.” Thank you to First to Read Program by Penguin for giving me the opportunity to read this book, which got me too excited once I found out it was about a Nigerian character, which was something I've always wanted to read about. From the first chapter I knew I'd connect with the main character, Sunny, the story begins with sunny being teased by her colleagues and I know that feeling all too well, as well as the fact that she writes and I love to write. Sunny then makes 3 friends: Orlu, Chichi, Sasha and she introduces them to her magical world. We go together with Sunny on a journey of discovery, where she's discovering her powers and how the world truly is. This boo “We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities.” Nnedi's writing is just amazing and engaging, making the entire experience better. This was my first book from her and I can’t wait to read more, I wasn't sure what to expect jumping into it, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to read this amazing work, and recommend it to all of you, I do have to say that it has been compared to other books, including Harry Potter, but the only similarities I can account for is the whole fighting against an evil persona, in this case Black Hat Otokoto, who is stealing and killing children, often removing their eyes in the process, but we should be used to the fact that a group of friends is mastering skills to stop an evil source, it has happened in more books than Harry Potter, take Lord of The Rings as another example, this shouldn't stop you from reading this book, it should only spike your interest on it “There will be danger; some of you may not live to complete your lessons. It's a risk you take. This world is bigger than you and it will go on, regardless.”

Finding your place in the world can be a challenge, but when you're an albino in Nigeria struggling to fit in with the other kids, that task can be even more challenging. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor follows the discovery of unique power for its protagonist that helps her fit in with an unforeseen group of people. Twelve year old Sunny has been different all her life as an American living in Nigera with African roots and features, but she's also albino. Her friend and classmate Orlu introduces Sunny to free-spirited Chichi, who introduces a whole new world of opportunities to Sunny through revealing the magical potential she has. In learning about and developing her abilities, Sunny becomes one quarter of a magical group of students who are tasked with helping defend their community from an evil magical threat. The writing style is engrossing, driving readers forward to find out what happens next to this quartet of magic students. The narrative took a while to develop, establishing details about the magical abilities and rules of the world, and then the ending came rushing forward rather abruptly, which was quite jarring, although the overall story definitely leaves the reader wanting more in this world with these characters. While tales of students discovering their magical abilities and fighting a bad guy are relatively common, it was a nice reprieve for this story to take place in Nigeria, which offers a fantastic new outlook on the world and magic from a different cultural background. Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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