Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi. 2007. The Shadow Speaker.
I've held off on reviewing this one for a few days now. This is one I'm on the fence about. Part of me really likes it. Thinks of it as good-and-pleasant weird. The kind of weird that is fun and enjoyable. Part of me, however, thinks it's just weird weird. Not good, not bad, just weird. (For the record, the two sides of the fence are not like and dislike. Rather, they are like and love.) The Shadow Speaker has an interesting premise. A fun premise. It's a futuristic world. Set in Africa in 2070. It's been quite a few (maybe a decade but not quite two decades) years since the world has been forever changed by nuclear war. But the changes aren't all bad. Around the time the nuclear bombs went off, someone invented a "peace" bomb that was made to counter-act the effects. It was made to create or recreate out of chaos, out of mess. It was meant to make the world beautiful and life-giving again. In a way, it worked, and worked well. It has transformed the world in some wonderful ways. But there were some consequences. Magic. Magic entering the world from other worlds, other dimensions. Magic effecting humans, effecting genetics, creating special powers. Magical animals and magical objects and magical creatures as well. There are now holes, gaps, entrances between several different worlds. Some of the beings entering earth are nice and pleasant enough. Others aren't. Others are more bent on evil; set on going to war with humans. Our main narrator, our heroine, is a *special* human with special powers that set her apart, make her different. These differences make some fear her, some respect her, some hate her. She's a girl with possibilities and potential. If she can survive til adulthood that is. Her name is Ejii and this is her story.
The Shadow Speaker has all the traditional wrappings (or is it trappings???) of your classic adventure quest. It has one main character seemingly going off to do the impossible. The goal--like so many others before it--is to save the world. Along the way, she meets friends, gathers a team together, gets in and out of trouble countless times, and along the way becomes a wiser and better person. So if you like adventure-quests with a strong magical theme, The Shadow Speaker may just work well for you. It's not that I don't like adventure quests. I do. They're not my favorite, favorite, favorite narrative type. But I like them well enough. I guess I just had a hard time fully suspending my disbelief when it came to loving this world, this setting. Not the Africa part, but the magical fantasy worlds.
Still, I mainly only have positive things to say about The Shadow Speaker.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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