Okorafor-Mbachu’s second novel opens in Saharan Africa in the year 2070, then takes its 14-year-old heroine on a quest to the world first introduced in Zahrah the Windseeker (2006). Years after an act of bioterrorism on earth, its most dramatic effect, the opening of a border with the planet Ginen, has just materialized. An untrained “shadow speaker,“ Muslim teen Ejii is compelled by otherworldly voices to help avert a war between the newly joined worlds. There are too many distracting way stations on Ejii’s journey, but readers who appreciate invention for its own sake will delight in Okorafor-Mbachu’s world building, especially the plant-based technology that allows mansions to spring from “abode seeds” and phone calls to be transmitted via gourds. Many will also embrace the novel’s complicated characters, especially its women, and the unusual appearance of African, Muslim traditions in a science fiction context. Fans of Nancy Farmer’s The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (1994) will want to give this a try; later, introduce the same readers to Nalo Hopkinson’s groundbreaking, Caribbean-influenced science fiction for adults. Grades 5-8. --Jennifer Mattson
About the Author
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a journalist who made her fiction debut withZahrah the Windseeker
. Her short stories have won many awards, and she earned her PhD in English at the University of Illinois, Chicago.