Viking. Aug. 2020. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593113523.
Gr 4-8–Fans of Okorafor’s “Akata” series will enjoy the author’s middle grade debut, introducing her work to a new set of readers. When 12-year-old Nnamdi Icheteka’s father is murdered, this Nigerian boy draws on the powers of his ancestors and an ancient magic to cope with his loss and deal with the growing criminal underground threatening to take over his hometown of Kaleria. This wonderfully fresh superhero origin story offers a look into the shadowy, inexplicable powers that are suddenly in the hands of an ordinary child. Through the strength bestowed upon him by the Igbo symbol of an Ikenga, Nnamdi transforms into an otherworldly force as he metaphorically deals with the big emotions of grief and tries to solve the mystery of who killed his father. While the themes of good vs. evil and vigilante justice will seem familiar, Okorafor has created unique, multifaceted characters that will have young readers hoping for Nnamdi’s next adventure.
VERDICT Though violent at times, this fantasy novel will surely appeal to comic-book lovers and mystery-seekers alike, and would be an asset to any library.

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