The Shadow Speaker

The Shadow Speaker

4.6 8
by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

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Niger, West Africa, 2070: After a nuclear fallout in the early twenty-first century, the earth's civilization has been completely transformed. Magic, mysticism, and mind-blowing technology now rule the world. In West Africa, fourteen-year old Ejii struggles to master her own magical powers. When her world is completely upended after she witnesses her…  See more details below


Niger, West Africa, 2070: After a nuclear fallout in the early twenty-first century, the earth's civilization has been completely transformed. Magic, mysticism, and mind-blowing technology now rule the world. In West Africa, fourteen-year old Ejii struggles to master her own magical powers. When her world is completely upended after she witnesses her father's death, Ejii faces a unique opportunity to explore her power and realize her destiny. But is she ready for the responsibility that comes along with that? Embarking on a journey across the Sahara, Ejii befriends new allies and battles dangerous foes. It soon becomes clear that her people need to be protected from a terrible force seeking to annihilate them. And Ejii may just be their last hope for survival. Fast-paced and full of tender friendships and thrilling action, this futuristic adventure heralds a bright new talent in young adult science fiction.

Editorial Reviews

The world has changed by the year 2070. Nuclear war has transformed Earth and its people. Ejii, a young West African girl, has also been affected by this disturbance. She is a shadow speaker, a mau girl who can read the thoughts of any living thing that is around her. Ejii struggles with her gift but eventually realizes that she must seek out her destiny. How can Ejii help save Earth from total destruction while keeping her friends and family safe? Does she have the strength to harness the shadow speaker power that she possesses to help those who cannot see the truth? Okorafor-Mbachu does an excellent job of combining both science fiction and fantasy elements into this novel. She describes advanced forms of technology along with highly-evolved animals that can speak and move just like humans. Humans have also evolved in Okorafor-Mbachu's world. Just as Ejii possesses the power to speak to all living things, other humans have similar powers-some control the rain, others can control the wind, and so forth. She also discusses the idea of other worlds or planes that humans and other life forms can move through freely. The action moves along at a quick pace and will keep most readers on their toes and wanting more at the end of the novel. Be on the lookout for a sequel to this well-written, SF/fantasy novel. Reviewer: Jonatha Masters
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 10 up.

Africa in 2070 has been a land infused with magic ever since the nuclear fallout from the Great Change. Fourteen-year-old Ejii is a shadow-speaker who can communicate with the hovering shadows all around her, and through them, with the innermost being of those she encounters. But the world of the future is no less brutal and warlike than our own world of today, and Ejii is sent on a dangerous mission with Sarauniya Jaa, the Red Queen of the Niger, who once beheaded Ejii's own savagely controlling father to put a bloody end to his tyranny. Can Ejii and Jaa now forestall devastating war between Earth and the four other worlds that have been opened to it? Okorafor-Mbachu has created a series of fantastic and mesmerizing landscapes, from the deserts of Nigeria to the lush forests of alternate world Ginen, where buildings are actually gigantic, living, blooming plants. Ejii and her companion, a young, previously enslaved rainmaker, must learn whom they can and cannot trust, and how much they are willing to risk to save their endangered planet. Okorafor-Mbachu's moral landscape is complex and shifting as well, inviting readers to ponder sweeping ethical questions such as whether deadly violence, even to oppose great evil, is ever justified. This is a rich and powerful debut novel from a fresh new voice in young adult fantasy. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.

School Library Journal

Gr 7-10- In the year 2070, the world is a dramatically different place in Niger, West Africa. Technology has excelled to an all-time height, magic has become a normal way of life, and certain people have developed superhuman powers as a result of environmentalist war-bombs. Ejii was nine years old when she witnessed the beheading of her power-hungry father by the Red Queen of Niger, Jaa. The area she lives in was under constant political turmoil between Jaa and Ejii's father, who preferred that women wear veils and be subservient to men. Now 14, Ejii begins to feel a mysterious pull toward the queen from her paranormal ability to "shadow-speak." As Jaa begins to get ready for her journey across the Sahara, Ejii prepares to follow her. Armed with just enough food to get by and a talking camel named Onion, she must cross the desert, fight against the perils of nature, and come to terms with her father's memory. Although slow paced, the novel does have some interesting qualities particularly in its feminist ideologies and sci-fi elements, such as storms that have an actual consciousness and human-eating foliage. The novel is a good choice for readers looking for adventurous futuristic fiction in a fascinating setting.-Marie C. Hansen, New York Public Library

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Kirkus Reviews
Ejii Ugabe, nervous and subservient, is an unlikely heroine in her semi-magical world. Though mystical shadows speak to her and mark her as different, Ejii would rather be the humble girl-child her despotic father wanted. When the shadows order her to join the folk hero Jaa, a mighty warrior woman, on a quest across Nigeria, Ejii resists the call. As a result, her quest begins far more dangerously, nearly alone but for a talking camel and an escaped slave boy who calls lightning. Ejii's world is touched by magical realism, with technology interwoven with wild magic in a chaotic post-apocalyptic setting. Though the narrative and dialogue are thoroughly inexpert, the rich and complex world-building creates an intriguing setting for Ejii's quest. Moreover, the intricacy of this Western African milieu, with its multitude of shades of Islam, its contemporary and fantasy tribes and its geographical variations, is very welcome in the still mostly Eurocentric genre of fantasy. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Product Details

Disney Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is also the author of Zahrah the Windseeker, as well as several award-winning short stories. She earned her PhD in English at the University of Illinois, and currently lives in Chicago, where she is a professor.

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