Akata Witch

Akata Witch (retitled What Sunny Saw in the Flames in Nigeria and the UK) is a 2011 fantasy novel[1] written by Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor.[2]

Akata Witch
Akata Witch.jpg
AuthorNnedi Okorafor
CountryUnited States
Young adult fiction
PublisherViking/Penguin Books


Okorafor utilized aspects of Nigerian folklore, belief, and tradition to create many of the entities in the novel.[3]


Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue was born in America yet lives in Nigeria. She is Black and albino. She's a great athlete, yet she can't go out in the sun to play soccer. Sunny then discovers that she has magical abilities, which makes her a "free agent" in the magical community called the Leopard People in West Africa. As a free agent, she needs to learn about the magical community. Soon her magical teachers connect her with three other magical students to become a quartet called a coven, which is a group of magical Leopard people assembled to pursue a purpose. The group is cultivated by leaders in the magical communities to try to capture a serial killer who also knows magic.


  • Sunny Nwazue is an American-born Nigerian. Aged 12 and albino, Sunny loves to play soccer but is unable to spend long periods in the sun. Because of her pale skin and hair, people call her a witch.[3]
  • Orlu is Sunny's classmate at school and a "Leopard Person"
  • Chichi is Orlu's friend who becomes close with Sunny. Chichi can see Sunny's magical abilities better than anyone else.
  • Sasha is another American-born Nigerian. He was sent to Nigeria by his parents as punishment for using his magic inappropriately.[2]
  • Black Hat Otokoto is the main antagonist of the novel. A powerful witch, he targets children for his evil deeds.[4]


The novel deals with themes of ethnicity, identity, and dealing with whatever gifts or curses life provides.[5]

Publication historyEdit

The novel was published as What Sunny Saw in the Flames in both Nigeria and the UK; "akata" has a derogatory meaning in Nigerian dialects.[6] The original edition's title is meant to face and criticize its derogatory meaning.


Kirkus Reviews called the novel "ebulliently original."[7] The New York Times recommended it as one of "7 great fantasy novels for teenagers," saying that Okorafor "weaves an enchanting spell in this book and its sequel."[8] The Los Angeles Times said "in an increasingly globalized world, Okorafor's outsider perspective offers a refreshing Afro take on the popular coming-of-age fantasy genre."[9]

Time magazine recognized the book as one of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, praising Okorafor's use of Nigerian folk beliefs and rituals.[6]

Okorafor's Akata novels have been met with resistance among religious conservatives in Nigeria, who argue that the novels glorify superstition and witchcraft.[3]


Akata Witch was named to the 2012 American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer Book List.[10] The novel was also named an Amazon.com best book of the year.[11]

The novel was nominated for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction in 2011.[12]

Akata WarriorEdit

The sequel to Akata Witch is Akata Warrior, released in 2017.[13] A third novel is in the works.[3]


  1. ^ Serrano, Lindsy (June 6, 2011). "Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor". New York Public Library.
  2. ^ a b Carpenter, Susan (April 10, 2011). "Book review: 'Akata Witch' by Nnedi Okorafor". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b c d Alter, Alexandra (2017-10-06). "Nnedi Okorafor and the Fantasy Genre She Is Helping Redefine (Published 2017)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  4. ^ www.publishersweekly.com https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-01196-4. Retrieved 2020-12-19. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Finch, Matthew (2011-04-05). "Home Truths and African Magic". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  6. ^ a b "'Akata Witch' Is on TIME's List of the 100 Best Fantasy Books". Time. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  7. ^ AKATA WITCH | Kirkus Reviews.
  8. ^ Russo, Maria (2019-11-27). "7 Great Fantasy Novels for Teenagers (Published 2019)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  9. ^ Carpenter, Susan (2011-04-10). "Book review: 'Akata Witch' by Nnedi Okorafor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  10. ^ "Akata Witch | Awards & Grants". www.ala.org. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  11. ^ Okorafor, Nnedi. "Nnedi Okorafor | Speaker | TED". www.ted.com. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  12. ^ "Akata Witch". The Nebula Awards®. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  13. ^ "Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor: 9780142425855 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2020-12-20.

External linksEdit