It was so nice to read something really new for a change, a fresh perspective, to me at least, on the traditional fantasy coming-of-age novel. The Nigerian setting is terrific, and I loved the magic systems and cultural information that came bursting out of this book like the delicious, nourishing flesh of a perfectly ripe mango. It was so great to read of Sunny’s day-to-day life, told as casually to the reader as if everyone had a Nigerian upbringing: it’s an excellent reminder that for the vast majority of the world, a Western upbringing isn’t the norm. As a novel of ideas and an ambassador for Nigerian and African culture to the rest of the world, it’s a superlative book.
But I really did not like Nnedi Okorafor’s pacing. There was so much random deus ex machina stuff, with things that weren’t explained regarding her otherwise really cool magic system, that it was as frustrating to me as a lot of early 20th century sf&f works, which require that the reader suspend all disbelief and accept that things happen just because the author says so. I didn’t understand about 50% of what happened in the climactic battle because Ms Okorafor doesn’t explain any of the spells except Chichi’s. I get that there are all these really cool things you want to pour onto the page, but please, God, don’t be like Steven Erikson. It’s especially annoying because this is a coming-of-age tale and we should be learning alongside Sunny: instead, things just happen in fits and starts and very little is explained and it’s all very frustrating to follow.
I do have high hopes for Akata Warrior coming out soon and remedying some of these shortcomings, and I’m planning on eventually reading some of Ms Okorafor’s more acclaimed works. But this one was oddly disappointing in its craft, tho absolutely mesmerizing in what content and context it had to display.