I quite enjoyed this story from Nnedi Okorafor. Structurally, it’s quite similar to the first Harry Potter novel (and many other such stories) – a young outsider with an unstable family situation discovers something special about herself, and a hidden world full of people with magical power, often goofy, and with a cadre of young juju-using friends and a mysterious enemy on the horizon. It also seems to be directed at a younger YA/MG audience, although I found plenty to enjoy.
I found the plot and the inevitable battle engaging but not really original or strategic. In the climactic engagement, the characters did use abilities and followed traits developed earlier, but there wasn’t a really a cycle of defeat, setback, learning, and reengagement which might have made it more than just an unstoppable train towards predetermined destiny. It was still exciting, though. I actually enjoyed the big soccer game more than the battle, even though that was just a pure sports-movie feel-good scene.
What sets this book apart from others are three things – first, a very appealing main character, second, a rich and wonderfully detailed magic system and community and world, and third and perhaps most important for this Iowan, a window into everyday life and culture in Nigeria. All of these elevated the story well above a typical magic school tale and made reading memorable and rewarding.