Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2017
This young-adult fantasy, set in the present time, centers on Sunny Nwazue, a teen born to Nigerian parents in the United States. A few years before the story begins, her family moved back to Nigeria, where she now lives with them just outside a small town. Sunny “confuse[s] people,” she explains, not only because of this dual background but because she is an albino.

In the course of the story, Sunny discovers that her background and nature are far more confusing than she could have ever dreamed. She and Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, three other teens who become her close friends, all find that they are “Leopard People,” possessed of magical powers—a fact that they must hide from the Lambs, or, as Harry Potter would have said, the Mundanes. The other three are the children of Leopard parents, but Sunny is a “free agent,” born to Lamb parents—although she eventually learns that there is Leopard magic further back in her family tree. Much of the story focuses on the four, with the help of Leopard elders who act as their mentors, learning to identify their powers and use them appropriately. The elders also task them with finding and destroying Black Hat, a mysterious serial killer who preys on young children for magical purposes.

The book’s main strength is its Nigerian setting, which includes a variety of things from foods to forms of magic that will be unfamiliar and probably intriguing to most American readers. Sunny and her friends are all likeable, in a mischievous sort of way; inevitably they get into trouble, annoying their mentors, as they overreach in using their newfound powers—but their story, at root, is a very well-trodden one. I had heard a great deal about Okorafor as an author and was expecting something a bit more unusual—but maybe she held back a little because this was a young adult book, or because she wrote it early in her career. I will be interested to compare this book with its sequel, Akata Warrior, which just came out in 2017, six years after Akata Witch appeared.
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