#AA2019 Nominees Round Up, June 6 Edition

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, narrated by Yetide Badaki
Audio Published by Tantor Audio
Publication Date: March 30, 2018
ISBN: 9781977302427

Akata Witch follows the story of twelve-year-old Sunny who lives a life of liminality. She is an Albino Nigerian-American girl living in Nigeria where her peers call her “akata.”1 She feels she belongs nowhere and has no heritage until she discovers she is part of the magical world of the Leopard people. Within this world, she discovers not only true friendship and magical abilities; but, she discovers what true darkness and evil lie within the world too. Befriended by Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, Sunny discovers the world of the Leopard people is a fascinating yet dangerous one. They study and train becoming a new Oha coven who are destined to carry the burden of the world due to their magical potential. The four combat the evil Black Hat Otokoto, who has been kidnapping children for blood magic and other diabolical purpose.

Okorafor weaves a beautiful story rich in Nigerian culture and folklore. The characters she creates have such depth that it allows growth throughout the story. In addition, her world-building is incredibly detailed and exciting.The narrator, Yetide Badaki, gives a superb performance. Her transitions between different African accents (as well as different American accents), genders, and characters are so seamless the listener may believe all characters are narrated by different actors. In addition, her narration of each chapter’s intro of portions of Sunny’s book “Fast Facts for Free Agents,”2 is done with such precise characterization of the fictional author’s sass and condescension. Overall, Badaki’s performance perfectly encompasses Okorafor’s world and characters.

Often summarized as a “Nigerian Harry Potter,” while the Akata Witch series would appeal to lovers of Harry Potter and other books of similar plots; it is far more than a rehash of Harry Potter. Fans of Nnedi Okorfar’s other works, Tochi Onyebuchi’s Beast Made of Night, and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone series would also enjoy the magic, fantasy, and rich African culture Akata Witch has to offer. Fans of games that incorporate magic, adventure, African culture and folklore like Diablo III, Aurion: Legacy of Kori-Odan, Hi-Rez’s Smite (upcoming Voodoo pantheon), and Elder Scrolls Online would enjoy the book. In addition, individuals who have enjoyed films or shows that have fantasy/sci-fi mix with diverse characters including Black Panther, Marvel’s Runaways, HBO’s upcoming Lovecraft Country, and HBO’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (although not fantasy, it has a strong and smart African female lead) would want to read this novel as well.

–Brittany Garcia


1“Akata” means bush animal like a fox, it is also derogatory term for Black people not born in Africa.

2A guide for people like Sunny who are born of “Lambs,” those without magical powers and enter the magical Leopard people world.