Imagine a child born with vines in her hair. From that first imagery I was hooked, and Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor did not let me down. It’s an imaginative, bright, and addictive story. I read it in one sitting, eyes wide, and I recommend you do the same. (Usually I leave the recommendation to the end, but it’s too important today.)
Zahrah is born into the Ooni Kingdom in a community that fears difference and, as a result, eyes her unusual hair with suspicion. With the vines in her hair (called dadalocks) and difference marking her apart, Zahrah still fears the unknown as much as any of those around her, so walking into the Forbidden Greeny Forest to save her best friend Dari is almost beyond her.
Yet she does. She gathers up her nerves and ignores her own terror for the sake of her friend, and in doing so she discovers much about herself.
This coming-of-age story is satisfying and emotionally rewarding. Zahrah is not a simple character, but neither does she allow events to shape her. She shapes herself in the face of adversity and learns how much power a Windseeker can have as she abandons her preconceptions. She is loyal, fierce, and smart. A protagonist I look for in every book I read, but rarely find in a believable guise.
If the fascinating plot and compelling characters aren’t enough for you, well, how about those computers grown from seeds? The wise and dangerous creatures in the market who tell your fate? The buildings that are planted instead of constructed?
In 2016 I’m making an active effort to read more books written by and featuring people of colour, especially in my favourite genres of sci-fi and fantasy. Zahrah the Windseeker came to me through my hunt for more diverse fiction, and I’m glad it did since I will now be reading everything Nnedi Okorafor has ever written. It’s a quick read but it’s one that’s stuck with me and out of the twenty-two books I’ve read so far this year, this one is by far my favourite.
So yes, I recommend you read it.
My rating: 5/5
Goodreads average rating: 4.09