Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death

by Nnedi Okorafor

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Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa. 

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language.

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu—a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101516003
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 06/07/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 50,848
File size: 843 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and is a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has been the winner of many awards for her short stories and young adult books, and won a World Fantasy Award for Who Fears Death. Nnedi's books are inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa. She lives in Chicago with her daughter Anyaugo and family. She can be contacted via her website, www.nnedi.com, or on Twitter at twitter.com/nnedi.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A fantastical, magical blend of grand storytelling." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Beautifully written, this is dystopian fantasy at its very best. Expertly exploring issues of race, gender, and cultural identity, Okorafor blends future fantasy with the rhythm and feel of African storytelling. " —Library Journal (starred review)

"Both wondrously magical and terribly realistic." —The Washington Post

"Believable, nuanced characters of color and an unbiased view of an Africa full of technology, mysticism, culture clashes and true love." —Ebony Magazine (editor's pick)

"Her pacing is tight. Her expository sections sing like poetry. Descriptions of paranormal people and battles are disturbingly vivid and palpable. But most crucial to the book's success is how the author slowly transforms Onye's pursuit of her rapist father from a personal vendetta to a struggle to transform the social systems that created him." —The Village Voice

"Okorafor is a master storyteller who combines recent history, fantasy, tradition, advanced technology, and culture into something wonderful and new that should not be missed." —RT Book Review (top pick)

"To compare author Nnedi Okorafor to the late Octavia E. Butler would be easy to do, but this simple comparison should not detract from Okorafor’s unique storytelling gift." —New York Journal of Books

Customer Reviews

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Who Fears Death 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Tori46 More than 1 year ago
I absoulutely loved this book! The story was thought consuming and the characters were true personalities. I definitely recommend reading it. Its a great read, I could not put it down.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The world may have been shattered by a nuclear holocaust, but mankind continues to fight one another; just on a smaller scale. In post-nuclear Sahara, genocide is the norm as the followers of the Great Book ethnically cleanse the region. Thus the Nuru believing God is on their side, hunt and eradicate the Okeke. In one village, the lone survivor is raped by the exterminators. She escapes into the desert eventually giving birth to a girl who the mom knows is unique. Using an ancient forgotten African language she names her offspring (from the brutal sexual assault) Onyesonwu, "Who Fears Death". As a shaman raises Onyesonwu, the genocide continues unabated. However, new hope arises amidst the embattled Okeke that a savior has come. Onyesonwu has been learning about her magical power to end the murderous cleansing. However, she must study evil to understand evil before she can sacrifice herself in death so that the Okeke can live. Using a futuristic fantasy base, Nnedi Okorafor provides a great but grim realistic drama that focuses on genuine problems in Africa today. Through the escapades of the heroine, the story line disturbingly examines ethnic and religious cleansing, racism, sexism, female genital mutilation and sex slavery as humanity is inhumane to each other. Who Fears Death is superb as Ms. Okorafor provides a powerful post apocalyptic thriller with strong ramifications in today's on the Eve of Destruction world. Harriet Klausner
Mohendra More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i have evered read. The story was so complelling and wonderful.
sarahbest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A coming of age story about a girl named Onyesonwu, who lives in a war ravaged and prejudiced filled world but who comes into her own then strives to rewrite her civilization's history. Set in "a place that used to be the Sudan" at a time which could be set in the future or the recent past, with echoes of the conflict in Darfur. A difficult read because of some of the subject matter it deals with (genocide, violence, violence against women, racism, genital mutilation, child soldiers) but powerfully written and epic in scope. In the story there is also hope, love, loyalty, empowerment, discovery, courage, feminism and community. There are a lot of magic and mythic (animism / shamanism / Yoruban) elements which add a lot of color and depth to the narrative. When characters shape shift into birds it creates some levity for the reader as well. The main character is flawed in a sense; she is powerful and very full of anger and a desire for vengeance that makes her similar in some ways to her foes. But she is heroic and that mix is what makes her so compelling. Her group of childhood friends ground her and make her and the action of the novel more well rounded. I would definitely recommend this book to others. Winner of the World Fantasy Award.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Onyesonwu is the sorceress/saviour of the Okeke people in the Arica of the future. Her father is the great general of the Nuru tribe who enslave the Okeke. Onyesonwu discovers her powers, meets the love of her life and embarks on a great journey to rewrite history.
Litfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's difficult to describe this novel, which has elements of fantasy, supernatural, and speculative fiction. It's set in Africa, in an apparently futuristic time after a disaster has occurred which has caused technology to fall by the wayside as magic and sorcery flourish. There is growing conflict as the Nuru people attempt to exterminate the Okeke based on writings in their holy book, "The Great Book." Into this canvas steps Onyesonwu, the heroine, whose name means "Who Fears Death." Onye is the product of a Nuru soldier's rape of her Okeke mother. As a young child, Onye discovers her own magical powers and is drawn into a fascinating world of sorcery, prophecies and a frightening end game to the genocide spearheaded by her biological father. Onye learns that she has a powerful role to play in determining the fate of this world.I loved this novel and found that everything around me seemed to disappear as I read it. The author is a master at world-building and created so sharp and vivid a picture of this magical world that it felt very real. The characters, too, were clearly brought to life and easy to care about. The storyline went at a good pace, with some suspenseful moments and some tearful ones. While set in a fictional world, the story in many ways mirrors present-day Africa, particularly the genocide in the Sudan. I think this novel would appeal to a varied audience, from those who love African fiction to those who enjoy supernatural/ fantasy tales.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nnedi Okorafor, in her acknowledgements quotes the term "weaponized rape" which describes a central theme of this book set in a future time in Africa where war, genocide, deforestation and ecological disaster have lead to the near destruction of a people and a good part of the continent. The title Who Fears Death refers to the name of the central character,Onyesonwu, a girl born as the product of a violent rape of her Okeke mother by a brutal band of Nuru men and women. The children of such rapes, called Ewu, and their mothers, are rejected by the Okeke, which is one intent of the rape, because they grow up to be uncontrollably violent. Trying to soften the story with the use of magic and fantasy, Okorafor explores sex in three ways: it's use as a tool of violence, a source of delight and amusement, and the basis of the strongest bond of life giving love. This is a difficult, harsh book and one well worth reading.
aleahmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel defies classification. An epic tale that spans the life of Onyesonwu -- a woman and an outsider, she is a creature of passion, justice, and magic. Set in a distant future, the races are painfully divided between the dark skinned Okekes and the fair Nuru. Onyesonwu is neither and she is both. She is Ewu. The violent social structure of the people is enforced by the stories of the 'Great Book' and fueled by the hateful sorcery of Onyesonwu's own father. Onyesonwu must rewrite the 'Great Book' and defeat her father in order to free her people -- both Okeke and Nuru. An enthralling cast of characters and an intricate plot make for a beautiful and complex tapestry of tales. Very much a fantasy novel with the inclusion of a prophecy and many magical elements, this novel is something more. It's much like an historical fiction novel set in the future, rich in detail and ringing of truth. Very enjoyable, I'd recommend to any fans of fantasy or post-apocalyptic fiction.
kmaziarz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Onyesonwu¿whose name means ¿Who fears death?¿¿was born Ewu; that is, she is a child of mixed racial heritage, born of rape. Her mother¿s people, the Okeke, hate and fear Ewu because they believe that all Ewu children, whose features are uniformly paler than their own, are destined for violence because of the violence that engendered them. But Onyesonwu is determined to prove her village differently, even going so far as to undergo a brutal traditional Okeke ritual to prove herself Okeke at heart. But when she begins manifesting signs of latent sorcerous ability, she finds herself outcast again. Surrounded by a small group of those loyal to her, Onyesonwu sets out for the home of her greatest enemy¿her own father, leader of the rival Nuru tribe¿hoping to fulfill a prophecy and change her world for the better.Set in a post-apocalyptic version of Africa in which what technology is left is in the hands of the dominant, lighter-skinned tribe and the subservient, dark-skinned people are blamed for the destruction of the old world, Who Fears Death is not a light-weight book. At times, it is extremely violent and graphic, especially when dealing with the systematic rape of Okeke women by Nuru men. But Onyesonwu is a winning heroine whose struggle for acceptance and whose fight to change the racist, repressive attitudes of those around her are vital and almost painfully realistic. This is an important book for our times.
speedy74 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Who Fears Death, a novel by YA author, Nnedi Okorafor is a gripping tale of genocide in post-apocalyptic Africa. Onyesonwu, which means ¿who fears death,¿ is born biracial. Her mother is Okeke, which the Great Book says is a race that is made to serve the Nuru. Onyesonwu¿s father, however, is Nuru. A product of rape, Onyesonwu, has to come to terms with her creation, the magical powers she possesses but does not understand, and her lower social status as a biracial member of her community. As the story unfolds, Onyesonwu, and her mentor realize that she has be destined to change the Great Book and heal the racial inequality in her world.I don¿t generally read fantasy fiction, but I found this book engrossing with its multi-layered characters, African culture, and wonderfully imaginative story line. The subject matter of racism, hate, female circumcision, gender stereotypes and war make this a work that takes the reader much farther than escape literature.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book! Seriously, this one took me FOREVER to read, but that was because of just how incredibly amazing it was. Before I start talking about all of the fantastic elements of this book let me just say that this story was completely out of my comfort zone. Everything was strange to me, the culture, the names, the language, the myths - everything was brand new. I expect some of that already when I read fantasy books, but this was even more so.. because it was rooted in the real world in such a fashion that everything seemed completely plausible.Onye, as a main character, experiences conflict, joy, terror, hope and more. She's strong and weak, stubborn and pliant and gives me, the reader, everything I was dying to have in a main character. I seriously cannot sing the praises of her development enough and loved every layer of her that I got to see slowly peeled away.This is, by far, one of the top contenders for the Nebula award, in my opinion. I challenge each of you reading this review to step out of your comfort zone and give this book a shot. You will be fiercely entertained and stunned by the magnitude of the story and its message.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death is really an almost impossible book to categorize. At its core, it is a traditional fantasy hero's journey: there is the apprentice sorcerer in the main character, Onyesonwu, who comes from humble beginnings, hears of a prophecy that there is a savior who can help save her people, and decides to go on a journey to discover her past and to help save her people from the evil sorcerer who lives in his stronghold; the journey is arduous but Onyesonwu doesn't go alone, as her friends join her in her quest. From here, however, the story begins to take on elements of magical realism and alternate history, as it is unclear if the Sudan that the story takes place in is a future of our Sudan, or one from an alternate history. Okorafor steeps her story in elements of what is happening there today, so there is some level of realism to the story.Onyesonwu's story is one of both tragedy and hope, told from her point of view while she is in jail for the "crimes" that she has committed during the rebellion. We follow her story from her violent conception to her time spent in jail, and it's not an always easy story to read, but one that flows almost organically through to its inevitable ending.There were some elements of the story that I felt were a little incongruous. For instance, this story takes place in an undisclosed future complete with computers and hand held devices with built in maps that can track your location in the desert, yet to these people, there is no knowledge of anything that lies beyond the desert that they live in, as if there has never been any contact with the outside world. This just seemed a little odd to me. I'm probably just overthinking this, though, and really it doesn't detract from the story at all. The key here, I think, is that there is probably a lot lost on readers, like myself, who are unfamiliar with African legend and lore. Nnedi Okorafor, while born in America, comes from Nigerian descent and has spent much time in Nigeria over her life, so her story is steeped in African myth. I'm sure for those readers who are more versed in African legend, many of the names and environments used in the book would have more meaning. What is also important here is that while I am ignorant of the meaning behind many of the names and legends that Nnedi uses in her story, it absolutely did not feel like I was lost at any point during my time reading the story.I thoroughly enjoyed Who Fears Death and look forward to reading more by Nnedi Okorafor. Recommended.
meghancochrane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Young outcast female meets outcast boy, learns she has magical powers, and goes off on quest to kill the baddy and save lots of people. Have you heard this plot before? There is more sex and violence in this than would be good in a YA fiction but I still felt like I was reading YA fiction. Is it unsophistication of the plot? characters? I think the author did some really interesting things with African cultures, especially bringing in female circumcision. The class systems and mythologies of the Okeke and Nuru were interesting too, but for some reason I feel like this had enough going for it back ground wise that it really didn't need magic. But in the end I just didn't care about the characters or the plot and didn't finish the book.
motivatedmomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is different than anything I've ever read . I really got wrapped up in the world of Onyesonwu, our heroine who name literally mean "who fears death." We follow her journey set in a futuristic Africa, where she is in an outsider, a product of rape between the two races. While the author deals with issues of genocide and female mutilation, this apocalyptical Africa has also contains shape-shifters and other forms of magic. This book defies classification but kept me interested right to the last page. Okorafor's writing made me care deeply about the characters and their tale. I look forward to reading more of this author's writings.
taramatchi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is very different and kind of similar to what I normally read. Where it was different because I don't usually read books based in what I think is African folklore or mythology. I tried to find out more, but did not have any luck researching. The story is similar because Onye is on a journey, she is an Ewu. A child of rape and violence that is treated differently by both of the main tribes in the book. She is special and has powers that also set her apart from others. I love books with a bit of fantasy and magic, and this book has that. It is different though from other fantasy books I have read. The magic is powerful and mystical, which leads me to think that it is based off of mythology. I also love dystopian lit so this book fit right into books I do read a lot of. It is a story of acceptance and love...of sacrifice and power. It is a story that will stay with me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story. Loved all the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the visuals, the strong love and sense of duty
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A captivating story that takes you to the desserts and marketplaces of Africa. Looking forward to the HBO series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Five stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The headline says it all. Read the first book first for context.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is a refreshing balm, and I cannot wait to discover more from the author.
syntactics More than 1 year ago
This is the book I never knew I had always wanted to read. Richly imagined, sweepingly epic, and deeply thoughtful about and critical of gender and race-based violence, Who Fears Death is somehow both brutal and hopeful, damning and yet tremendously empowering. Onyesonwu and her friends will be hard to forget.