The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu 2007
Hyperion/Jump at the Sun Books
IQ "History is change. The great change, the change of my father, the chance in Kwamfa, the change of my mother, the change of me. The reason anyone writes history is to record big changes. If history is change, then I'm definitely a part of it." Ejii pg. 10
The Shadow Speaker tells the story of fourteen year old Ejii Ugabe who is a shadow speaker (which means exactly how what it sounds like) living in Niger in 2070. There has been a nuclear fallout that has produced A Great Change across the world. People with special powers are born (like shadow speakers, they are all called metahumans) and countries are falling apart, separating and coming together. The world as we know it today is totally different from the world of 2070. Ejii's father does not embrace this change and as chief of Kwamfa (the town Ejii lives in) tries to implement traditions in the old way (wearing burkas, girls marrying young and having no say in anything, etc.). Ejii witnesses her own father's death and with this death she is given a grand opportunity to help not just Kwamfa but all of Earth. She sets off across the Sahara desert and encounters creatures both good and evil, friends and foes.
I think this book has officially made me a sci/fantasy fan. (A Wish After Midnight and Silver Phoenix helped introduce me to the wonders of the genre). I loved it, and my only problem and the reason I just can't give it a 5 is because of the ending. The ending is so suspenseful and I haven't heard anything about a sequel being written and thus I am left with many questions (the romance, the fate of the world, of Ejii)!!! So if a sequel is being made someone let me know and I will change the rating because otherwise this book was marvelous.
Earth in 2070 sounds cool but a bit scary too. I love the world Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu has created and I especially love how it's sci fi set in Africa and Africa is one of the leading powers during this time. Between shadowspeakers, windseekers, smoke, the Aejej and jinnis. And of course Jaa. I can't fully explain the wonder of Jaa but I will try, she is essentially the most powerful woman in the world and she has two husbands (a nice change from the usually male polygamists, she is a female polygamist). She is fierce, fierce, FIERCE! I don't know how else to describe her. She's beautiful, brave and a good leader. But she also has flaws (that I can't share because that would spoil it). The best way to explain her is to use this quote "Jaa was a madwoman and the sanest individual Ejii'd ever met. She was so sharp in mind that she hadn't had to think before [...this is a spoiler that I shall not share!], so sure she was of her actions. She knew exactly what she was doing, Ejii thought. And she regrets non of it." (pg. 195) So there you go, Jaa is the craziest wisest person there is. The author fully emphasizes this point. Half the time I loved her and the other half I was suspicious. Jaa and Ejii have a love/dislike relationship and the author describes it so well, she keeps you in suspense.
Africa is described as one of the more forward thinking continents. The author has a captivating, wild imagination. I also thought it was interesting that even after the world is full of so much technology (like an e-legeba), magic and modern creatures (flying carpets), there were still some old world traditions such as storytellers, polygamists (the male polygamist is old world, but Jaa having multiple husbands is more original) and slavery. I thought the most intriguing aspect of this world besides the new technology/creatures/metahumans was the fact that there were still slaves. why would a world so far forward still need slaves? Just one of the many questions that the Shadow Speaker brought to mind (along with questions about what life would be like after a nuclear explosion and what technology has in store for us, the negative and the positive).
The Shadow Speaker is action-packed and enthralling. The characters are all well-developed and the world is completely believable, if I live to 2070 (I'm too lazy to do the math to see if I would still be alive so pardon my bad math) I wouldn't be surprised if the world turns out the way Nnedi Okorafor Mbachu (well some parts anyway!) This book made me think but most importantly it was thoroughly enjoyable. 8th grade and up.