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Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor.

November 21, 2013

Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor.  Miami, Florida: Warner Brother, 2005.  Hardback, pp. 308.


 An enjoyable fantasy by an African writer about a dark-skinned girl on another planet,  her quest to save her friend’s life, and her own coming of age.

 Zahrah is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in an insular world on a planet near Earth. She was born with strange hair, hair that other children teased her about unmercifully.  As she reached adolescence, she discovered she had other strange powers as well.  Her only real friend was the boy, Dari, who didn’t mind the ways she was different from others.  He had a strong curiosity about the planet beyond their town and even about the mythical planet earth.  Although Zahrah was shy and fearful, his desire for knowledge led them into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle near their home.  When Dari was attacked there, Zahrah set out on a quest through the Forbidden Jungle to save his life.  In the jungle, Zahrah encountered dangerous, fantastical creatures, who almost killed her. She found friends who helped her stay alive. Most importantly, she learned to value and trust herself and to honor the talents that made her different.

 Okorafor’s fantasy is full of adventure and imaginative plants and animals.  It is a place where plants have strange powers. Even within the “civilized” part of the planet, everything from computers to buildings is really plant-based.  In the jungle, animals talk and live in comfortable villages.  A few human beings have rare talents that are equally unimaginable.  Okorafor does imagine them, however, and shares them with her readers. Her novel is well written and fun to read. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy, although I suspect it was written primarily for a Young Adult Audience.  Its themes deal with issues of particular concern for that age group; such as being true to one’s self and one’s friends even when they are different and learning to stand up to fear and remain calm in the face of danger.  The book is never moralistic, however, and you don’t have to be a teenager to relate to issues like dealing with fear.  Okorafor also offers a mild social comment about the need to explore the unknown rather than turn inward with fear.  I especially appreciated Okorafor’s depiction of the relationship between Zahrah and Dari as deep friendship and loyalty rather than romance.  She leaves their future open to become romantic, but doesn’t push them into premature sexually attraction.

I gladly recommend this novel to all those who enjoy fantasy—especially but not exclusively young adults.

This book was read for A More Diverse Universe Reading Tour, hosted by Aarti on Booklust and featuring fantasy by authors who are people of color.

One Comment leave one →
  1. aartichapati permalink
    November 23, 2013 10:41 am

    Thanks for your double duty on #diversiverse! I have Okorafor’s Who Fears Death? on my shelf to read. I hope to get to it soon. It seems like she’s a very powerful writer.

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