I promised that once a month, I would post a book review on here and since I have a growing love for African Literature; the first book to make the mark is none other than Nnedi Okorafor’s What Sunny Saw In the Flames or the American title “Akata Witch”.
Just a little info on the author. Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author with works in African futurism, fantasy, magical realism for children and adults. She is a professor in the University of Buffalo; New York. Other titles under her belt are: Who fears Death (this I think has a TV deal), Long Juju man, Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi, Zahra and the Windseeker (won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature) and the Binti novella trilogy. I just discovered her and I absolutely love her.
Now back to the book. I’ll try not give any spoilers.
What Sunny Saw In The Flames is a magical realism and African fantasy story suitable for adults and teenagers. It centers around Sunny, a 12 year old Igbo girl who was born in New York but moved to Aba, Nigeria when she was 9. The story starts with Sunny having a premonition that opens her to a whole new magical world she had no idea existed or she could even be a part of. Sunny is different; her albinism being a major attribute. She’s also frequently referred to as akata (a slur for American born Africans). She befriends Orlu and Chichi who introduce her to the Leopard People (special people of magic). They are each assigned mentors who show them the ropes of juju. However, the trio must learn fast as a villain kidnapping young children for rituals in the city is on the loose and they have to stop him.
Nnedi’s imagination is out of this world as she describes African magic (juju) in this dangerous and yet interesting new world. There are magical creatures that do the oddest of things; spine-chilling villains with menacing supernatural powers, and humor which I think every book needs a little of.
She tells this story in a simple third person perspective leading us through the events of Sunny’s new found life. Her descriptions of magic and it’s consequences are almost real-life. She also addressed a few social issues; gender inequality, friendship, migration etc. She creates a world and culture that is versatile and hard to get tired of. Another thing of interest is the book within a book “Fast Facts For Free Agents by Isong Abong Effiong” which I need a copy of…lol. The West African culture is portrayed colorfully precisely the Igbo culture.
If you are a huge fan of fantasy, magic, and everything else in between; this novel is definitely a must read.