Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review of Akata Warrior by The Inky Saga

I did not set myself the most ambitious reading goals this year, and it has been a struggle to just read one book per month. However, I was really happy to get to read Akata Warrior, the sequel to Akata Witch, which I read and adored last year. The magical adventures of Sunny and her coven are so much fun and full of heart.

I also love the African representation in the book. These books comment on identity in Nigeria, which is as varied as complex as it is in America. I think is so important that children read a book set in different countries, especially countries that we don’t often see portrayed for a young adult audience. Africa is such a huge continent and in many places, it is surprisingly not that different from certain parts of the United States.

In this post I will talk about the plot and potential spoilers from this sequel. Like with my last review of a sequel, I’m not sure how many people will read this post. So I’m just going to assume it will be people who have already read it and want to talk about it! If you’ve not read Akata Witch, I highly recommend it. You can check out the review I wrote last year.

SEE: AKATA WITCH BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

 • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor 

Released: October 16, 2018 by Speak
Pages: Paperback, 512 pages
Theme(s): Identity, inner strength, power of knowledge, friendship, balance
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy / African-American Fiction
Age Group: 10+
Goodreads | Amazon*

*Affiliate link disclaimer

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysterious town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Akata Warrior picks up some time after Sunny and her oha coven have defeated Black Hat and are well into studying independently with guidance from their individual mentors. The book actually started with a really great recap in the form of a letter from the snarky Obi Library Collective of Leopard Knocks’ Department of Responsibility! I had been worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the story, but I ended up recalling most of the first book. I was actually only fuzzy on the ending, probably because I was so unsatisfied by the plot’s main conflict.

In this book Sunny is being haunted by the evil spirit Ekwenzu who wants to bring on the destruction of the natural world. She manages to separate Sunny from her spirit face Azue, which to everyone’s surprise does not kill her. Instead Sunny is forced to navigate the magical world without her spirit guide and find inner strength and confidence in herself.

In this second book, we see Sunny grow closer to her brothers. Each sibling is so different, they all have live such different lives despite all having lived under the same roof. It’s really nice to see them start to opening up and trusting each other with their vulnerabilities and trouble they get into. It is through her brothers that we see a real-life problem plaguing Nigerian higher education: confraternities.

I had never heard of this problem and was glad that Okorafor included this little side plot that was so relevant to the story because of the leopard world’s value of education and the story’s Nigerian setting. It is horrifying to see how people are press-ganged into these secret societies full of corruption that ultimately seem to have nothing to do with the honest pursuit of knowledge.

One more minor thing that I found highly unsettling was the development of a relationship between Sunny’s friend Chichi and her older brother Chuckwu. It’s super creepy to think of a 18-year-old guy who is obsessed with body building off at college being attracted to a literally underdeveloped child! Chichi is supposed to be this tiny little girl. The first book makes it seem like Chichi is older than she looks, but I don’t think that makes it okay!

I think drama of a love triangle was the main the point of throwing Chuckwu into Chichi and Sasha’s relationship. Maybe it can be chalked up to cultural differences, but I do feel it was highly inappropriate even if their relationship was more innocent.

Aside from the horrors of reality, this book was a lot of fun! My favorite parts of these books is always following Sunny as she discovers more about the leopard world and all of what’s possible. The flying wood cutter, Grashcoatah, was a particular delight. He was like a playful Loki in giant grasscutter disguise!

Like the first book, I feel the second suffers from a similar weakness in the plot. I was really in shock again about how many things happened that Sunny did not see fit to explain to the Leopard adults, particularly her mentor Sugar Cream! In the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events books, the children are always trying to tell adults first and it’s only when they realize they are not being taken seriously do they realize they must act on their own. I’m not sure why it doesn’t even occur to Sunny and her friends to confide in more older people with more experience!

I also really didn’t like how disconnected the climax felt from the rest of the book. I actually did like the slow unraveling of the discovery that the house Sunny had been learning about in her grandmother’s letter was Ekwenzu’s home in the spirit land, but it was not a very smooth transition from the mystery the coven was chasing by visiting the mythical city of Osisi. To be honest, though, maybe I’m just used to stories where the protagonists know what they need to do. Sunny and the gang are plagued by problems not at all personal to them but derived from ancestral conflict.

If I had to rate this book by stars, I’d give it a 4 stars. It’s a very fun read and does what a great fantasy book should: ignite our imagination but also reflect problems we face in the real world. My biggest critique is just the same as it was for the first book; a lacking plot. Ultimately, however, that is easy to overlook since the rest of the book is so fun and I truly care about the characters.

If you read this post in its entirety, let me know if you’re read these books yet! I’m truly curious, as I never used to review sequels in the past. I didn’t see a point. If the first book grabs you, you’re going to want to read the sequel naturally. But I guess people can be curious about where the story goes without wanting to sit through a story and characters they feel so-so about. I, for one, am extremely interested in continuing to follow Sunny’s story and see where this series goes!

Thank you for reading!
Follow my blog via Bloglovin’. Also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Released: July 11, 2017
Pages: 349 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Identity, friendship, balance, power of knowledge, values
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy / African-American Fiction
Age Group: 10+

★★

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do.

Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But just as she’s finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

Preface

I first discovered Akata Witch because of Leigh Bardugo. As one typically does with their favorite authors, I look for books that have been recommended by authors whose writing I admire. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this article by Cosmopolitan last year “Leigh Bardugo Recommends 5 Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books Every Woman Should Read.”

Bardugo describes Akata Witch as “a really delightful heir to Harry Potter. It’s a really perfect read for younger readers who might be looking to get into fantasy.” As someone who grew up loving Harry Potter, I recognized this tremendous compliment and decided to look into the book. As I am a writer of YA fantasy, I felt Akata Witch would be an fun book to dissect for how another author world builds.

I had read The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and not been impressed by the overwhelming similarities to Harry Potter, so I kept my expectations for Harry Potter-level excellence low. But from the summary, I was getting Wonder Woman: Warbringer vibes, which was written by Leigh Bardugo, so I couldn’t help but be excited.

Before I go any further, let me just say that Akata Witch is an outstanding entry into YA fantasy that I think everyone should read.

My Thoughts

I loved this book and am so excited for young readers who will be able to access this book while they are still children. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that much of fantasy that young adults will consume from an early age is set in the Western world and with primarily white characters.

As a young adult, it never bothered me (a hispanic, cis-gendered, straight female) and I don’t think it bothers too many because the power of books is allow readers to step into the shoes of other people, even those who seem so different from ourselves. It’s only as we grow older that we wonder how much more confident or proud we would have felt of our own heritage and the culture of our ancestors if we had seen it in the books that we cherished.

That’s why I’m so excited about this book. It is not just a book that represents progress; it is so much fun that it should appeal to anyone!

The magic world (which I describe in greater detail in the next section) is a fantastic adventure to explore and there are so many great characters that show a range of leopard lifestyles that I think make the magic feel accessible to people from all walks of life, which makes it feel more real and appealing. There’s also great moments of situational humor that I enjoy more than anything else.

Atmospherically, the book feels like it could become a Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli film in the style of Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro.

Craft

The magic system of Akata Witch is unlike anything I’ve ever read. I can understand the Harry Potter (and even Percy Jackson) comparisons, but it does not really come off that Okorafor used the former books as a check-list. Everything in Akata Witch‘s world and magic system is so specific and feels authentic to the country and its environment.

I could actually see how this book leaves it open so that the magical world of Nigeria could fit into that of the HP universe. Instead of wands, the magic people have juju knives. Instead of the witch/wizard vs. muggle dichotomy, Akata Witch has leopard (magic) people and lambs (non-magic).

As witches and wizards in the HP universe can be muggle-born, similarly leopards can be born of lambs. I don’t remember Rowling going into where magic comes from in the HP universe, but in Akata Witch Okorafor explains how magic (or juju as it’s called in her books) is the source of a spiritual awareness or connection.

The protagonist, Sunny, is actually what is called a free agent, which means neither of her parents are leopards. Rather than a magic school à la Hogwarts, young leopards maintain a double-life, going to regular (Lamb) school and independently studying juju with an advisor and, if they’re lucky, a mentor who can better guide them according to their strengths.

Leopards pride themselves on valuing knowledge above all else. Indeed, the economics are divinely (read: mysteriously) arranged so that leopards earn chittim (curved metal rods that act as leopard currency) by learning new things and developing wisdom. It just falls out of the sky no matter where the leopard is at the time–––an aspect of the world that felt more video game-inspired than anything else!

One thing I did not like about this story from a writing perspective is how convenient the major conflict of the story unfolds and resolves. In the back of our heads as we read this story is the child serial killer called the Black Hat. Halfway through the book, Sunny learns she is a leopard and her oha coven (Sunny’s quartet of friends who balance each other in ability and personality) have been brought together to defend the world against the rise of an evil entity.

I also didn’t like how often Sunny would be asking her friends and their teachers/mentors questions and they would tell her to wait and gratification was delayed. It was done too much! It reminds me of my earliest writing adventures when I’d not have the answers as the writer so I’d put it off writing those explanatory scenes by having my characters wait.

Final Thoughts

Young adults and adults alike can enjoy this book. Admittedly, there are some dark depictions of the harm that befell the child victims of the novel’s villain that may unsettle much younger readers, but these moments are few and far between.

I look forward to getting my hands on the next book Akata Warrior as soon as possible! I’m just annoyed that I got the paperback of the first book because I’m one of those annoying people who likes their books to match on their shelves, so I must suffer waiting for the release of book two’s paperback edition. Rats!

If you’d like to read more YA fantasy that celebrates diversity, I also recommend City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. (Because of my research as I wrote this review, I also believe the Percy Jackson books may nicely compliment Akata Witch. As I’ve never read them, I don’t feel comfortable recommending them.)

Have you read Akata Witch? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
Follow my blog via Bloglovin’. Also find me on GoodreadsTwitter, and Instagram.

April Goals + TBR

HAPPY EASTER (AND APRIL)!

For the first time in a long time, I’ve been excited to sit down and plan out future blog posts. This March after I announced my hesitant return to blogging, I tested the waters with two blog posts: a book review and a winter reading wrap up. Now I feel like I can begin to plan for a future in which this blog is indisputable part of my daily life.

On that note, I wanted to share my goals and TBR for the month of April related to Betwined Reads. I love the direction I’ve decided to take this blog and want to let you all know what you can expect to see this month in my little corner of the internet.

Goals

1. Publish at Least two blog posts per week: one book review and one technology review

I feel that at the rate I’m going with my reading at the moment, I can realistically expect to write one book review per week this month. I’ve definitely been bitten by the reading bug and have begun to better know what I’m looking for at this time in my life. For a list of the books you can most likely expect to see reviewed this month, see my TBR a little further below.

I also would like to find and write reviews of cool technologies that I think could be useful to bloggers, students, and digital media enthusiasts. For this month, I’ve tentatively planned to write reviews of new websites and applications that I’ve be learning this month: Unsplash, Trello, Skillshare, and Duolingo.

2. Share a writing update

I’ve been working on my novel these past couple of months and I’ve been itching to share my progress and some of things I’ve found useful. I even started a post last month that is practically all ready to go, I just didn’t want it to come out of nowhere! So most likely I want to write a blog post updating you all on my writing, my personal deadlines, and also explaining what direction I’d like to take with my writing-related posts this year.

3. Find and shout out blogs that I’m loving

One of the things I used to really love doing on my original blog Books o’ the Wisp was shout-out the blogs and blog posts that I was loving each week. But, as I briefly hit on in The Return, I realized that I am not aware of many blogs that actively fulfill me and consistently share content I would love to see. To be honest, though, I’ve not done a lot of searching.

Since it has always been a goal of mine when I started Betwined Reads to connect my readers not just with awesome books but also with awesome bloggers that I’m loving who are doing cool and innovative stuff, I feel like there’s no time like the present to start.

I’ve decided to make it a goal for this month to start searching and start sharing here in some kind of weekly format. I think this feature (which will hopefully have a name soon) will go up on Sundays, as I think that is a nice cosy time for most people with busy lives to unwind and catch up—at least Sundays have always that way for me.

TBR

I’m not overly confident in my ability to stick to a strict TBR so I don’t find it realistic to look at my bookshelves right now and pretend that the books that appeal to me in this moment will be the books I still want to read at the end of April. Especially as I’m rediscovering my love of reading at the moment. That being said, I have three books I know I will try to get to early this month.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I first learned of AKATA WITCH from Leigh Bardugo. Bardugo is one of my favorite authors writing today and so I had been looking for books she had recommended for people who love her work and AKATA WITCH was one of them. Upon reading the premise (Goodreads), I decided this book was worth checking out for myself, not just as a reader but a writer.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

I’m still attempting to prioritize reading books that have been on my TBR for a longer amount of time, so SOPHIE’S WORLD (Goodreads) would help me check another off that list. This is actually a book that I might’ve bought in high school; it’s been that long since I acquired it that I can’t exactly remember. I know I’ve attempted reading this book before and found it boring, so I’m not entering it with high expectations. I just want to know if it’s worth unhauling it.

Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins et al.

I started reading SPREADABLE MEDIA (Goodreads) at the beginning of the year. I actually read the entire Introduction, or that thing that comes before an Introduction—it’s been a while since I’ve picked it up again! I really do want to read it, though! I may just have to commit a few days to it and only it so that I can check it off my TBR.

End Note

Coming up next this week on Betwined Reads will be my first technology review of Unsplash, a free stock photo service I’ve discovered, which has some awesome photo collections any fellow blogger might find useful. I’m currently using a photo I found on Unsplash for my blog site icon and header image (cited on my About page). You can look forward to this review on Monday. And Thursday you can expect my review of BURIAL RITES, which I finished this weekend! It was gorgeous and heart-rending.

Have you read any of the books on my TBR?

What do you hope to accomplish this April?

Thank you for reading!
Follow my blog via Bloglovin’. Also find me on GoodreadsTwitter, and Instagram.