I’ve been wanting to read Akata Witch for a while, and I finally picked it up. Here’s what I thought: (I’ll try to be as unspoilery as possible!)
This book has so many layers to it! Sometimes I felt myself trapped between the layers of meaning that I just couldn’t quite grab hold of, which both adds to the mystique of the juju in the book, but at times was more obfuscating than atmospheric. Occasionally I felt that questions weren’t answered directly just to cause tension, but then immediately wondered if that was my own frustration or Sunny’s.
The characters in the book were nuanced and real, although occasionally I had trouble picturing them in my mind’s eye – particularly Sunny’s father, although that might be more because of his role in the story rather than any lack of description on the author’s part.
I’m torn between Sunny and Anatov being my favorite characters. I feel a lot like Sunny – when I don’t understand something, it’s very difficult for me to just let go and let it be. I want to know how and why things are happening, and this is not that kind of story at all – which I ended up appreciating because it really caused me to stretch in ways I don’t with a text normally.
If I could visit one place from the book, it would definitely be Leopard Knocks. I want to see that library! I’m going to say a little bit about the descriptions of food in this book, too, because everything Ms. Okorafor described sounded at once delicious and waaaaaay too spicy for me to even have near my mouth! Even the sheep’s head stew sounded good, and I’m usually not much of a one for literal brain food.
Here is where I fell short as a reader: I’m not well-versed in Nigerian tradition and myth, and as I read, this was readily apparent over and over. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book, but it left me feeling like I was missing a chunk of story that I would have understood if I’d known Nigerian mythos as well as I know Greek (and could therefore be ‘in’ on some of the jokes and references like I was when I read The Lightning Thief ). But here’s the next great thing: I now want to learn about Nigerian traditional myths and stories!
The plot of the book is well-paced and the characters engaging – although not always likable. Chichi, in particular, was a difficult character for me to grow to like, and it often felt as if Orlu and Sasha were simply male mirrors of Chichi and Sunny instead of their own people (which, honestly, is a refreshing change of trope, but still a trope).
Speaking of tropes. The casual sexism in this book might be troubling for some readers. Other issues are dealt with more seriously – racism, bullying, class – but the sexism was just there and never addressed.
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars, and definitely recommend it for anyone who loved Harry Potter and wondered how it might have happened if Hermione had been the main character and Nigerian.