Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death

Book - 2010
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Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different-- special --she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language.

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu --a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu . Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.
Publisher: New York : Daw Books, 2010
ISBN: 9780756406172
Branch Call Number: SF
Characteristics: 386 p. ; 24 cm


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TSCPL_Miranda Nov 04, 2018

Wow, this was a hard one. I almost quit after the first couple of chapters. Then I almost quit again about halfway through. TW for rape, genocide, and female circumcision...which tells you in a nutshell why I found it so hard to read. That said, it's a powerful, memorable book, a woman on a quest, driven by destiny to be the salvation of her people. You'll find magic, deep lore, and a strong, admirable female lead. The setting is a near-future earth, in Africa, that has lost touch with much of its technology, and the tone is both bleak and hopeful.
I almost brought this one down a star because of how ill it made me feel in parts, and then decided I can't penalize an author for being good at what she does. If you've read Okorafor's young adult fiction and loved it, be warned that you need a stronger stomach to tackle this one.

Oct 18, 2018

What a great book! I am always looking for a science fiction author or book that is different, original, fast-paced, exciting, emotional, intriguing characters...I found it all in this book.

Jun 06, 2018

I LOVED THIS BOOK. It is amazing, and told extremely well.
The harshness and the pain makes the ending only more bittersweet, and it opened my eyes to the conditions other people experience in the world. Onyesonwu is a powerfully complex character, and her journey is an inspiring one.
I read this book in little over a day, and I've started the prequel, The Book of Phoenix (so good!), and Nnedi Okorafor is doing an amazing job

Apr 05, 2018

I love this book. The heroine just does not buy into racism or sexism. She doesn't much like the Great Book either. I can so relate!

SPPL_Kristen Mar 13, 2018

A breathtaking novel. Nnedi Okorafor is one of the best authors writing today. Please be mindful of the content warnings: the book deals with a lot of difficult and graphic subjects. This is one of my new favorites, and I highly recommend it to all sci-fi lovers.

ArapahoeGrace Mar 01, 2018

Content Warning: This book contains explicit scenes and discussions of sexual assault. This book so fully immersed me in its world that I could hardly think critically about it as I was too focused on the story itself. An uplifting page turner, this book gets right to the heart of modern race and gender relations through its Afro-futurism lens. I can't wait to read more by this author.

SCL_Tricia Jan 04, 2018

Soon to be made into a tv series with George RR Martin as the executive producer. An interesting book with a strong female lead. I think it will translate to tv very well.

Dec 03, 2017

Given how white and male the sci-fi world is (less so in fantasy), it's refreshing to come across a book written from a different perspective. Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American writer and "Who Fears Death" is set in a post-apocalyptic Africa. Okorafor uses the genre to deal with more serious issues like racism, violence, rape, and women's rights. I don't think you have to be a fan of sci-fi to enjoy this.

KateHillier Jul 27, 2017

Once this gets made, assuming this gets made well, we are in for one heck of a TV show. This book is fantastic. It's immersive, imaginative, brutal, and beautiful. Onye, our lead character, is a child of rape and her and her mother live as nomads in the desert until they reach a town where they may be able to have a normalish life. That's not Onye's fate and her fate is to be a force to be reckoned with. She has magical powers, she's going to change the world, and she has to fight tooth and nail with friends and foes to get an inch of respect. She makes mistakes, for sure. She's headstrong, angry, and that has its own consequences.

This is truly fantastic. Seriously. I didn't know all that much about it when I started reading it and I'm trying to give you that same experience by being a little vague. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Sep 15, 2016

Onyesonwu is the child of rape, and this is only the first of many brutal and violent events that are recounted in great detail in the opening of pages of Who Fears Death. For anyone who might struggle with reading about rape and female genital cutting, this book and this review may not be for you. A variety of violent deaths are also graphically depicted, including more than one woman being killed by stoning, and another woman who is torn limb from limb by an angry mob. The violence is generally motivated by either the race or gender of the victim(s) and often by both. While the graphic depictions let up somewhat in the later part of the book, I honestly struggled to continue reading after making it through the first hundred pages. It took me two weeks to get through the book, though I put it down for a week in the middle. Full review: https://shayshortt.com/2016/09/15/who-fears-death/

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Apr 07, 2018

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Add Notices

Sep 15, 2016

Sexual Content: Graphic depictions of rape

Sep 15, 2016

Violence: Including sexual violence, genocide, and stoning. Depictions of female genital cutting.


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Sep 15, 2016

Humiliation and confusion were the staples of my childhood. Is it a wonder that anger was never far behind?

Sep 15, 2016

Humiliation and confusion were the staples of my childhood. Is it a wonder that anger was never far behind?


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Sep 15, 2016

Onyesonwu is Ewu, a child born of the violence that the Nuru have long visited upon the Okeke people they have enslaved in post-apocalyptic Sudan. Nuru and Okeke alike regard her as an abomination, but she is protected by her determined mother, and her highly respected adoptive father. Her magical talents begin to manifest early, setting her even further apart from her Okeke peers in the village of Jwahir. But things begin to change when she meets Mwita, an Ewu boy with connections to the village sorcerer, Aro, who has never agreed to take a woman as his student. Her untrained power ties her to a larger destiny, one will impact the future of Nuru and Okeke alike.

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