A Look at “Firespitter’s” Blend of West African Culture and Futuristic Fantasy

Published 05 Apr 2024
by Anca Antoci

Title: She Who Knows: Firespitter
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Released: 20.08.2024
Buy from Amazon
4.09 (read)
Our review:
4.50 (read)

Hey there! Today, I’m diving into another ARC from NetGalley that’s bound to top your summer reading list. “She Who Knows: Firespitter” by Nnedi Okorafor hits shelves on August 20, 2024. Let's take peek at the book's description.

Book description from the back cover

Part science fiction, part fantasy, and entirely infused with West African culture and spirituality, this novella offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a teenager whose coming of age will herald a new age for her world. Set in the universe Africanfuturist luminary Nnedi Okorafor first introduced in the World Fantasy Award-winning Who Fears Death, Firespitter is the first in the She Who Knows trilogy

When there is a call, there is often a response.

Najeeba knows.

She has had The Call. But how can a 13-year-old girl have the Call? Only men and boys experience the annual call to the Salt Roads. What’s just happened to Najeeba has never happened in the history of her village. But it’s not a terrible thing, just strange. So when she leaves with her father and brothers to mine salt at the Dead Lake, there’s neither fanfare nor protest. For Najeeba, it’s a dream come travel by camel, open skies, and a chance to see a spectacular place she’s only heard about. However, there must have been something to the rule, because Najeeba’s presence on the road changes everything and her family will never be the same.

Small, intimate, up close, and deceptively quiet, this is the beginning of the Kponyungo Sorceress.

My review

This novella marked my introduction to Nnedi Okorafor’s work, and I must say, it left quite an impression. Following the journey of Najeeba, a 13-year-old girl who heeds the Call and embarks on a daring adventure along the salt road with her father and older brothers, challenges both gender and cultural norms. Despite the risks, Najeeba embraces her destiny, showcasing Okorafor’s skillful world-building and introducing readers to a desert landscape where salt reigns supreme. As Najeeba comes into her own power and confronts challenging obstacles, the narrative unfolds with gripping intensity.

The post-apocalyptic setting steeped in African culture is a captivating backdrop, swiftly introduced and easily navigable even for newcomers to the series. While the story took a bit to find its rhythm both in writing style and plot progression, once it did, it proved to be a thoroughly engaging read.

With its strong narrative voice and immersive world-building, “She Who Knows: Firespitter” is a delightful addition to the series. Standalone readers need not fret, as Najeeba’s captivating tale stands on its own, offering a rich blend of magic, mythology, and humanity.

Set in a post-apocalyptic, afro-futuristic world teeming with technology, spirits, and mysterious creatures, Najeeba’s journey as an Osu-nu, the ‘untouchables’ of the Okeke peoples, is a mesmerizing fusion of tradition and discovery. Okorafor’s storytelling prowess shines, drawing readers deep into the narrative from the get-go.

This well-crafted tale effortlessly draws you in, thanks in part to the instantly likable protagonist and the meticulously crafted world. Overall, “She Who Knows: Firespitter” is a must-read, seamlessly weaving together African culture with elements that feel both ancient and futuristic. If there’s one gripe, it’s that the ending felt a tad rushed, but that hardly detracts from the overall experience. Highly recommended for those seeking a fresh and immersive read.

Our final verdict: