Book review: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti The Night MAsquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

It started with a nightmare.

This book is so good! This whole trilogy is so good! You should definitely read all of them! Nnedi Okorafor is a genius. Because of the way in which this trilogy is structured, it is really very hard to review this book without dropping big spoilers for books one and two (reviewed by me here and here). So this is going to be a vague and excitable review, done partially in bulletpoints.

Things in this book:

  • Really interesting thoughts about aliens.
  • Binti. I love Binti.
  • What is home? Where is home?
  • Okwu. I also love Okwu.
  • Incredible narrative. Somehow sprawling despite being in this little little book, and covering so so much – historical narratives, war, prejudice, family, home, humanity, growing up, life, death…
  • Spaceship fish!
  • PTSD and coping with it.
  • Lots of maths, but in a good way (I struggle with maths).
  • Thoughts on peacemaking.
  • Read it!

Binti: The Night Masquerade was the perfect finale, and it took me by surprise! Had I made guesses at where this book was going to go, I would have been wrong. The Binti trilogy is a stunning piece of science-fiction/afrofuturism that has reshaped my expectations of science fiction writing.

Read this book: look out at the stars, and ask if they are looking back.


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Book Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve always been fascinated by candles.

This book is also published under the title What Sunny Saw in the Flames, which has a few textual differences mainly related to dialogue (or so I’ve heard).

I devoured this book. I picked it up and did not want to put it down until it was done, continually asking “What happens next?”. And yet, I find it (along with a lot of Nnedi Okorafor’s work) hard to review: I know that, as a white English person, there are going to be things that I miss. And there are places where I know I am missing things, and probably things that I am missing that I don’t notice I am missing. I really, really love Nnedi Okorafor’s work, but I am scared of somehow, without meaning, doing her a disservice by being ignorant in my reviews.

So, here is what I think I can confidently say; Sunny Nwazue is a wonderful, engaging protagonist with a clear and unique voice. The imagery is stunning, and the plot is carefully done. I loved the writing style, and the magic system is fascinating. There is a whole hidden magical world that Sunny is drawn into, which (I think) has a basis in a real secret society, and the rules of the magical world were brilliantly thought out. I enjoyed the friendships, and the way that they grew and changed. I like reading things that are not set in Europe or America, especially fantasy. Overall, I strongly recommend this book: it’s gripping and fun, although the danger is very real…

Rating: read this book, look deeply into candles.


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Wednesday update: very silly videos

Hello all! A quick update, as I am very busy at the moment and not sure when I’ll post next (tax returns urrrgghghhh)

Reading: I am currently reading Red Witch by Anna McKerrow, sequel to Crow Moon. It is fantastic so far, and I’m really interested to see where she goes with it.

Writing: Not a lot – this is due to the dreaded tax returns. Fingers crossed I can get the accounts out of the way this week and get back to writing!

Went to: Piranha Poetry night on Monday! Really fantastic evening, very high standard open mic. I read some things despite being absolutely terrified. I may make the poems that I read available on the blog at some point.

Reviews: I’m reading very slowly at the moment, but should have some reviews for you soon.  Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, Akata Witch (published as What Sunny saw in the Flames in the UK and Nigeria)(I ended up with the US edition, but have just found out that the author prefers the UK edition) and Binti: the Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Feeling grateful for: my local bookshop – one of the staff there has my taste completely pegged now, so whenever I go in she has something hidden under the counter to recommend to me. It’s terrible for my wallet but lovely for my bookshelves.

Listening to: PYNK by Janelle Monae. You should watch the video; it has vulva trousers!

Also watching this: I mean, how have I never come across it before? It is the most ridiculous thing to ever ridiculous and I love it.

That’s it for now – wish me luck with the tax returns, and hopefully I’ll emerge from beneath them next week. Take care!


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Book review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death by Nnedi okorafor image contains a desert and a black woman standing with her back to us, sprouting vulture wings.

My life fell apart when I was sixteen.

Phew! This book was like a good kick in the teeth, stress on the good. I feel ill-equipped to review it – so much of this book falls so far outside my knowledge base, and although it is a post-apocalyptic fantasy, I still feel like there are going to be nuances that I have missed because of lack of real-world knowledge. So, I am going to do my best, but if I make some horrible mistake please let me know. Please also note trigger warning for rape – it’s a pretty big theme in this book so you may just want to completely skip the whole thing if that’s going to be hard, or at least proceed with caution.

Who Fears Death is an epic, if not in length then in structure. It covers years – an entire lifetime (at least). There is a prophecy and a quest and a great evil to be overcome, but these things are introduced slowly, and the main themes are personal. Onyesonwu is  a child of rape in a post-apocalyptic Africa. She is also Eshu; a magical shapeshifter (among other things). She has to fight stubbornly to be taught, because nobody wants to teach a woman. As a visually recognisable child of rape, she has to struggle for many things, including basic acceptance. And she is angry, with many and reasonable causes. There is a lot of visceral anger in this book; about slavery and genocide and fighting for survival. There is also hope. And love. And humour. And wonder. All of which are essential, because it would be almost impossible to read without those. Nnedi Okorafor has achieved an incredible balancing act here, pulling no punches with the pain of the story she is telling, and being similarly straightforward about the joys that her characters manage to find.

Onyesonwu’s story is, primarily, about justice. All kinds of justice. I’m trying not to spoil the plot here, but the amount that Nnedi Okorafor manages to cover in 419 pages is impressive. And her characters are sinewy and real and seem to breathe, her writing is clear and incredible, and the world she has built is a brilliant and fantastic thing. And damnit, I am so here for angry women hunting down the people who hurt them. I am here for that unmitigated and unreasonable fury, for the fight for ownership of one’s own body. I am here for non-European worlds and magic systems. I mentioned when I reviewed Book of Phoenix that reading it made me think about the things we are willing to be complicit in as long as we don’t have to look at them: Who Fears Death did that all over again. It’s a scorching, incredible book that makes me feel certain that I am not doing enough. And it looks fearlessly at the nitty-gritty reality of structural patterns impacting on individual lives and bodies. It’s also a compelling story, it’s just that I’m a little preoccupied with the rage…

Rating: read this book -remember that hope is a dangerous thing…


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Another update: the surface is in sight!

So thinking that it was just one week of blergh was rather optimistic, as it turns out… However, there is good news my lovelies! I am plotting some plots in cahoots with various friends, and they are exciting plots! I am unable to tell you anything more at this point, but at some time in the future events will eventuate 🙂 I am also planning to put one of those “buy me a coffee” things on this site soon – I will very likely use the money for hot chocolate, should any of you actually decide to buy me a drink 🙂

Reading: I am currently reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. I’m finding it a bit tricky to settle into, but it is making me desperately want to re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I don’t think I ever reviewed on here. I have just finished Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb, Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw, and Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott. I’ll attempt to get reviews up soonish. I am also getting back into The Knowing by Kevan Manwaring, following a dramatic failure on the part of my e-reader thingamabob…

Writing: I nearly have a novella, nearly nearly. Gotta get another thousand words in there before it technically counts, but it’s getting there. Also the plotting project :D:D:D

Excited about: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor, out in January. *excited sounds* and A Question of Faith by Tonya Liburd, out now and in my reading pile. Both of these things sound AMAZING.

Binti: the NIght MAsquerade

Could not find artist name.

A Question of Faith by Tonya Liburd

Art by Jennifer Johnson

Thinking about: organic spaceships and teenage ducklings. Teenage ducklings are amazing, they look SO DAFT!

That’s it for now – hopefully I will not be gone so long this time 🙂

Book Review: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

‘Five, five, five, five, five, five,’ I whispered.

Sequel to Binti: read that first!

I have previously expressed a desire to buy everything that Nnedi Okorafor has ever written; this desire is only getting stronger as I read more of her work. Binti did incredible things in ninety pages. Binti: Home does equally incredible things in one-hundred-and-sixty-two. It is a fantastic gem, packed full of imagination, sharp observation, creativity, and a rollercoaster of emotion. The world, skillfully set up in Binti, expands into more detail (and spaceship fish spaceship fish spaceship fish!)

Binti has been at Oomza University for a year now, and she is heading home accompanied by Okwu, who is part of a species that has been at war with parts of humanity for ages. Binti has changed, and as she travels she wonders who she is now, if she is the same, if she is still human, if she is still Himba.

Now, I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but maybe the question she should have been asking was whether she was ever who she thought she was… I loved every second of this sequel! It followed up, it answered questions that I had at the end of Binti, it developed and it went to unexpected places. It left me with a burning need to read the next in the series, and it again showcased Nnedi Okorafor’s skill at touching on big issues without sacrificing story. About the only problem I had was that the pronouns for Okwu seem to change randomly and I couldn’t quite tell if they were meant to or not. Sometimes they were ‘it’ sometimes ‘him’ and I think in the first book they were ‘she’ at one point, but the way it’s done it almost seems like a mistake rather than a deliberate choice. I got along fine, and headcanon that Okwu changes gender.

So, read this book. Wonder if you ever really know who you are…

Book Reviews: announcement and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I have read a lot of books recently, however I’m struggling a bit to find time to write “proper” reviews of them (super busy with work and writing a new story). So I thought I’d do a series of bite-size reviews of around 250 – 300 words each, just until I have more time again. I’m sure there will be some longer ones mixed in there! I hope you enjoy 🙂

Let us begin!Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I powered up the transporter and said a silent prayer.

This is an incredible book. Short, at ninety pages, but full. Bursting, almost, with ideas and skill and craftwork. I believe I described the other Nnedi Okorafor title that I’ve read, The Book of Phoenix, as being a cataclysm. This is a quieter book, but no less powerful. Binti is of the Himba people, and she is leaving her home and her planet to attend Oomza Uni, which flies in the face of tradition. Please note that I am not knowledgeable about the Himba people, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation in this book.

It’s hard, really, to know what to say because there is so much contained in this slim volume. Binti is a fantastic protagonist; completely believable in her characterisation. From the first sentence I am drawn in and intrigued: I want to know who she is, where she’s from, where she is going and why. And I empathised with her, to the point of snarling “what the f*ck?” under my breath when a stranger in a public space touched Binti’s hair without asking (which I know is a real problem, and a whole other subject deserving of lots of space because it’s so not okay, ever, to grab a stranger’s hair!) and yelped out loud, and swore some more at other distressing points (this is me trying to avoid spoilers) and cried when Binti lost her friends. Messily. There was snot, people. The world building was also excellent, and very impressive; creating such a real science-fiction world in a mere ninety pages must, I imagine, have been quite hard (also one spoiler: spaceship fish!). I cried at the end as well, because this is such a beautiful novella and I want more. Luckily there is more, and I’m just waiting on my next payday to buy the sequel.

Mathematics is something of a theme, as Binti primarily got into Oomza Uni with her incredible mathematics score. I really struggle with maths, but the novella is still completely readable and enjoyable and I actually found myself thinking things like “Hmmmm, maybe maths isn’t so bad, maybe I should go learn more maths”. And aliens and friendship and and and and I have to shut up now or I’ll just squeee.

So to conclude, brilliant main character, excellent writing, excellent story about growing up and making choices (and lots of other things) and more to come!

Rating: read this book, learn about equations.

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