11 July 2018

Hugos 2018 [Prelude]: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Yet another Bernice Summerfield review from me: worms eating books in Matthew Sweet's The Diet of Worms.

Trade paperback, 349 pages
Published 2017 (originally 2011)

Borrowed from my wife
Read June 2018
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This is sort of a classic "young wizard" story, where a kid discovers they're magic and gets trained. In fact, it reminded me of nothing so much as the first Young Wizards book by Diane Duane, So You Want to Be a Wizard, as I think it basically follows the same template, though I'm sure there are older antecedents. (Indeed, The Dark Is Rising springs to mind.)

It's an okay example of the genre. There are a lot of individual moments that are nice, but the book as a whole feels pretty aimless. The protagonist, Sunny, has an apocalyptic vision early on, but it pretty much has nothing to with anything. (Which makes it pretty baffling that the book's UK edition was titled What Sunny Saw in the Flames.) Halfway through, the kids are told they have to hunt down a serial killer, but they don't actually do this until about forty pages before the book ends, which means the whole thing goes easily and predictably even if they are in mortal peril. (I feel bad constantly comparing Akata Witch to Young Wizards, but compare to the harrowing confrontation with the Lone Power at the climax of So You Want to Be a Wizard.)

I did enjoy the worldbuilding a lot (I like the idea of money you get when you have a genuine educational experience), and I suspect if I were closer to the target age, I'd've got more out of it, but as an adult reader, I've read more satisfying and interesting pieces of YA fiction.


  1. Such a good feeling to have my own opinion of this book validated by someone I respect! Everyone else I know who's read this seems to have found it worthy of every high accolade conceivable; I really started to feel like I must have read a different novel. The worldbuilding was terrific, but the dialogue and pacing are both so flat. Also, the prose style is simple enough to seem ideal for elementary kiddos, which made some of the content (seriously horrific serial killer!) feel uncomfortable for me.

    1. I think my review of it will go up on Wednesday, but I ended up enjoying the sequel a lot more. It's much more focused (despite being longer), and better at leveraging the worldbuilding to enhance the story.