There is a lot to love about Akata Witch so it was a bit frustrating that the story didn’t get going until really half way through. Sunny discovers she is a Leopard Person later than most of her kind do. She’s always been an outsider, an albino, American born and now living with her Nigerian family in Aba, Nigeria. Her parents are Lambs (non-magical people) and therefore don’t know about her magic, and she must keep it that way.
We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities.
Fortunately for Sunny, some other teenagers notice her power and take her under their wings. She can also learn from the Fast Facts for Free Agents guide which has extracts throughout the story. The bulk of this first instalment is worldbuilding, with Sunny trying to learn all the customs, rules and how to use her power.
Both the Lamb and Leopard communities are on edge with a man known as Black Hat abducting and killing children. This is mentioned at the beginning and then it is hinted at about half way though that it’s something the kids will have to deal with. The blurb gives this away so it’s not a spoiler, it just takes so long for the main plot arc to get going. I loved the last third, so perhaps the second book will be a bit pacier.
Along with three other magical students, Chichi, Orlu and Sashi, Sunny learns what she needs to pass through the levels of the Leopard People. She is introduced to Leopard Knocks, the West African capital of their kind, hidden from the Lambs but full of everything they could need. They enter by showing their spirit faces, something they must never show a Lamb.
Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom.
Learning is rewarded with chittim which magical rain downs on them when some new knowledge is gained. This is a wonderful reward system especially as chittim is the currency of the Leopard People. Sunny goes through the motions of learning the basics, and you know when she has nailed it as chittim falls upon her.
I love Nnedi’s adult science fiction and her creativity is visible here but it just wasn’t as good as I was expecting. It is fantastic to see fantasy in non-western settings and I loved how she combines West African customs and superstition into this.
Book Source: Purchased