Reviews

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.”

This is a novella that I picked up at the library. It’s a multiple award-winning book and I was excited to give it a read. This book is part one of a three book series. I’m not a huge fan generally of novellas or sci-fi, but I enjoyed this book.

The novella is focused on a character called Binti. She is a member of the Himba people and is SUPER smart. The characterization done in this novel was my favorite part of this novella. We learn so much about Binti through her thoughts and interactions. I love the culture and history that is added to her. She’s truly what I would consider a rounded character.

I also enjoyed the world building. Most of the really interesting bits are at the beginning, but there are different species of beings in space, there is a living spaceship, and there’s a really interesting concept of math being the language of magic. I’d love to learn more about it in the next books.

I’ve started talking about plot versus character driven stories. I would say this is more character driven simply because we just experience so much of who Binti is, but the plot is also moved along at a steady pace. I feel like this novella is fairly balanced between the two. I do feel like there are some pretty powerful themes in this book about belonging and staying the same versus growing into someone new. I feel like to truly appreciate this novella you’d want to read it more than once and give it some thought.

Diversity. This book’s diversity is mainly based in Binti being a woman of color. There are different groupings of people and beings, but there’s not much description of them and because they’re mostly fictional beings I wouldn’t say the differences in this book represent more diversity outside of Binti herself. She’s a compassionate and smart woman and I’m excited to read more of her it in the future.

Overall, I would say this is an enjoyable novella. The introduction of the Meduse seemed a little contrived to me but given the short length and focus on Binti I can easily overlook it and enjoy the book fully. If you enjoy Sci-fi and want to read a quick, but well written novella I think you’d really enjoy this story.

Reviews

Kingdom of Souls Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.”

Kingdom of Souls was a rollercoaster for me. I fell in love with the beginning of this book. The world building was great with wonderful descriptions that really painted a picture for me. The whole being upset because all her family had magic and a lot of it made sense. However, about halfway through the book just stalls.  The descriptions get boring and it just get so drawn out and most of what was compelling about the story disappears. I almost gave up on it, but I pushed through and the last 40-50 pages made it worth reading til the end. I’m even curious about the second book.

I’m in love with the world building. The author did an excellent job of describing the different tribe as well as the city life. The magic and religion are described fairly well. The author also did an excellent job of creating some morally gray characters especially surrounding the mother. It was nice for the world to show that rarely are all people all good or all bad.

Characters. I would say this is where the book struggles the most. Alyna is alright. I found her interesting at the beginning, but then kinda lose interest. She has a complex relationship with her mom, but I don’t ever feel like enough is done with it for it to feel compelling or as interesting as I was hoping for. She has a loving relationship with her dad which I enjoyed, but then that disappeared too. All the other side characters got so little attention they really felt more like plot devices than full, breathing people. I would say this is more of a plot driven story vs a character driven story.

Plot. Normally talk about plot in relation to all the other categories, but I felt like it might be needing its own section. This in my opinion is a plot driven story. There’s lots of interesting stuff happening in the beginning and end of this book that definitely made me want to keep reading. What you really need to worry about in this story is the middle. As I mentioned, it just completely stalls in my opinion. Alyna and family go to a more remote location so there’s no one else to interact with and it’s basically 100 pages of inability for anyone to do anything. It was a part of the book where there was no hope and that made me feel really uninterested in the story. It gets better though so I encourage you to push through if you enjoyed the beginning of the book.

The diversity is okay. We’re set in a fantasy Africa setting so obviously all our characters are people of color. We have a woman of color as our lead which is excellent. There’s so mentioned of lgbtq+ characters, but its so vague and fleeting that its almost not worth mentioning. We have some characters who have definitely experienced trauma and have some PTSD, but again it feels so vague I’m not sure if you’d truly count it as representation.

Overall, it was an alright book. I tend to prefer character driven stories which is really what kept me from truly enjoying this story as much as I was hoping to. However, if you prefer a novel that really focuses on the development of the plot rather than focusing on characters, I think you could really enjoy this book.