Young Adult – Akata Witch

Twelve year old Sunny has spent her entire life feeling out of place, first as a Nigerian in America and now as an American in Nigeria. It doesn’t help that she is an albino, forced to stay out of the sun and looking physically out of place as well. She is surprised to discover, however, that she really IS different: she is one of the Leopard People, magic workers who live amongst the regular world. But just as Sunny is beginning her initiation into magic, she is thrust into a mystery involving a serial killer that might just have ties to the magical world.

This was an excellent fantasy book.  I enjoyed reading a book set in Africa that was grounded in the realities of rural Nigeria: the buses are unreliable and crowded, but the kids have cell phones. While books that takes place on this continent are admittedly rare, the few that are published seem to depict Africa as existing in a perpetual time-warp where computers or televisions are strange or nonexistant.

But as much as the setting helps the book to stand out from the pack of fantasy novels, the writing and story work just as hard to be distinguished. The magic system was interesting; I particularly loved that learning new things led to an instant shower of magical currency. While the prejudice against free agents – children who come into the magical world without generations of family support – is a little over-the-top, I was willing to overlook it as a means for the author to both convey attitudes and do a little more-or-less subtle info-dumping.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy. Some of the serial killing implications could be a little upsetting, but the book never becomes gory.

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