The Shadow Speaker

Tantor Media. (Desert Magician’s Duology, Bk. 1). Sept. 2023. 10:28 hrs. ISBN 9798350861068. $19.99. FANTASY
This new, expanded edition of an early, out-of-print novella by Okorafor (Binti), originally geared toward YA audiences, commands attention in audio. Délé Ogundiran, who is Nigerian American, narrates with a brisk, precise West African accent, using subtle tonal shifts to distinguish voices and convey emotions as 14-year-old shadow speaker Ejii Ugabe travels across the Sahara and into a parallel world, gathering allies and enemies on the way. When Ejii was nine, she witnessed her father’s beheading by the warrior queen Sarauniya Jaa, a fellow metahuman who could guide Ejii through the manifestation of her abilities. Metahumans and rifts into other universes appeared after early 21st-century nuclear fallout transformed the planet. Metahumans are still regarded with suspicion in 2070, as Ejii sets out to find Jaa. Unique characters, including a talking camel, and Okorafor’s profound insight into human nature (from Ejii’s father’s misogyny through her complicated grief at his death) add texture and maturity to a familiar call to adventure. This new edition, though billed as adult lit, still seems better suited to a younger audience but nevertheless offers much to engage fans of Afrofuturism.
VERDICT Lyrical, emotive narration enhances a compelling coming-of-age novel, the first in a duology perfect for any audio fantasy collection.
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