The first time I read Who Fears Death, I was grabbed by it. I was so compelled by Onyesonwu, our protagonist, that I didn’t have a critical eye for anything else. And that’s the beauty and frustration of a re-read. You see good things you didn’t see before, but your blinders also come off and you see other things that you missed on the first go. Sometimes, that means a formerly five-star book comes down a bit, and that’s the case with this one.
I won’t summarize the book here, because I reviewed it in 2015. Instead, I will focus on what I noticed this re-read:
*Onye is still just as compelling a protagonist as she was the first time. She is fierce and angry and impetuous and determined. She is very human, which I appreciated.
*The decision to include FGM is controversial, and I don’t know if I entirely like how it is treated, both in the initial incident, or in the healing. I like that Onye figured out how to heal herself and her friends, BUT it did feel a little too convenient the way it worked out. Like, almost all women who have been mutilated do not have an easy fix, or any fix at all.
*The relationship with Mwita is just as compelling, and he is a remarkable (and also flawed) character.
*The world-building is definitely lacking. For being billed a novel about post-apocalyptic Africa, there wasn’t a lot of stuff about the apocalypse that I could notice or pull from. That’s too bad, because my research is all about the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, and I think some context would have been fascinating.
This is honestly still a terrific novel, and one you should read. I won’t be including it in my research, but I do think it worthwhile, particularly for its Afro-centric focus, something we could use a lot more of in literary fiction and science fiction/fantasy.
Cross-posted to my blog.