Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death Cover

Who Fears Death


This review contains spoilers and a mention of female genital mutilation.

Overall, I enjoyed Who Fears Death, and was fascinated to read a modern fantasy novel not rooted in Judeo-Christian mythology. However, I struggled with some of the lack of consequences and resolutions throughout the novel. Especially in one off subplots (ex: when they hide in the cave during the thunderstorm), unsettling and horrifying things are introduced but no explanation is ever offered. These minor incidents don't seem to impact the characters going forward. Only landmark events throughout the plot seem to have a lasting effect on Onye. In general, I think I connected more to the episodic parts of the narrative, and less with the overarching plot.

I also struggled a lot with the way that some of the social issues were dealt with. The female genital mutilation was so horrific for the characters initially, but had a relatively easy fix and didn't go on to impact the characters after they'd been healed. Characters who were sexist or racist were generally sexist or racist at the end of the book, or they were cured by magic. There wasn't much nuanced middle ground there.

Despite some of these problems, I was invested in the story and cared about what happened to Onye. I would recommend this as an interesting read, even if things don't get tied up as neatly as they could have been. However, much of the content of this book is not for the faint of heart, and I would probably not recommend this to children under 15.