Series: Akata Witch #1
Published by Speak on July 11th 2017
Genres: middle grade, fantasy
Source: First To Read
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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?
I was lucky enough to get a copy of Akata Witch through the Penguin First To Read program. It honestly wasn’t my first pick. I wanted Library of Fates, but all the copies were gone by the time I got there, so I took this one instead. I’m thankful that it worked out this way, because this book was unique and contained a memorable cast of characters.
Sunny Nwazue is just a twelve-year-old girl struggling to live a normal life with her albino skin, until she discovers she is a Leopard Person able to do unusual magic and juju. Her life changes drastically, and she has to keep it a secret from her parents and brothers, while becoming a part of a coven and receiving training to hone her skills.
Important things to mention:
~Sunny is American and West African. She spent a portion of her younger years in America before moving back to Nigeria. She doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere because she feels she is American and African, she feels like she doesn’t fit in with her family either because she is forced to play soccer at night due to her skin sensitivity. Also, her father favors her brothers and treats Sunny very harshly.
~This book is middle-grade, NOT young adult. There is very little romance, and none of it features the protagonist. Sunny and her friends go on a quest to catch a killer, and basically attend a magical school, there is a distinct magic system and a linear plot, so this book is very middle-grade, though I would say it has crossover potential.
~It’s a very dialogue heavy book, and this is one of the things that I think irritated me the most. I liked the story quite a bit, but most of it is told through dialogue and that’s not my favorite thing ever. It reads a bit stilted and immature at times, and I wish that had not been the case. Basically what I am saying is that it could have flowed better if there was more of a mix of dialogue and narrative. It also lacked transitions in places, and yeah this kind of stuff does pull me out of the narrative.
Despite my criticisms, though, I really enjoyed Akata Witch because I liked Sunny, and I was invested in her quest to stop Black Hat Otokoto. I like reading books set in non-white countries, I am finding, because the last two books I’ve read have been set in Africa and I enjoyed them both. I also love books set in Asia.
The mythology and magic system was well thought out, and I appreciate the depth that went into planning this. I just wish there was more time spent with Sunny learning to do actual magic. It reminds me of Harry Potter. Harry somehow has to save the world but he doesn’t seem like he’s that great of a wizard, honestly. When does he learn actual magic? And when he does, he kinda sucks at it. It’s sort of like this with Sunny. All of a sudden she knows how to do certain kinds of magic and I have no idea how she learned it. I just feel like it’s an important part of the journey of her character and I missed out on it.
Akata Witch is a fast read, and it’s an enjoyable one if you are searching for a unique fantasy with depth and characters you can root for. I don’t recommend it if you mostly don’t enjoy middle grade because it reads younger than young adult, but if you know what to expect going into it, you will probably love it.