I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in eSwatini (previously Swaziland) so it was with a backdrop of African scrub bush that I read Wizard of the Crow and realized there was a whole world of literature I hadn’t tapped into yet.
With a grant, a Swazi teacher and I selected a group of novels set in Southern Africa for our school library. Most of the Western novels were difficult for students to relate to, and they were thrilled when books like Zoo City, set in Johannesburg, arrived. Books are most inspiring when they do two things simultaneously: 1. transport us to a new world, and 2. make us appreciate our own.
Here’s a list of Conquer Books’ top ten African-inspired science fiction and fantasy novels. If you have a favorite, be sure to share in the comments.
Shuri: The Search for Black Panther
written by Nnedi Okorafor and illustrated by Leonardo Romero & Jordie Bellaire, out May 7, 2019.
A graphic novel set in everyone’s favorite fictional African country, Wakanda.
Shuri is next in line to the throne, but she’s more concerned with her work in the laboratory, that is, until her brother disappears on a mission to space. Suddenly Shuri has to choose between what she wants and what is best for Wakanda.
Black Leopard Red Wolf
by Marlon James, 2019
This epic fantasy tale draws from African folklore and mythology.
Tracker has a nose, one that allows him to find the lost, the hiding, and the running. When a shape-shifting beast named Leopard convinces Tracker to join a team searching for a young boy, it’s against his instincts. He never works with others, and the further in Tracker gets, the more he wonders who in the search party doesn’t want the boy to be found. You can learn more about the book from our vlog review.
Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi, 2018
A Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy with West-African influences.
Orïsha is stripped of its magic and the royal family intends to keep it that way. Zélie, and the other decedents of maji are heavy taxed or enslaved. Then, a princess finds a sacred scroll and opens her eyes to her father’s violence. When she is saved by Zélie, the scroll ignites Zélie’s powers, setting off a chain reaction that will shape the kingdom and its inhabitants forever.
The Rage of Dragons
by Evan Winter, 2017
A Game of Thrones-style fantasy influenced by the author’s Xhosa heritage.
The Omehi people know nothing but war. It’s what life has been focused on for 200 years and only the gifted—women who can call dragons, men who can transform into killing machines—survive. Tau wants no part in this life until he is betrayed and he vows to become the greatest swordsman.
by Tade Thompson, 2016
Cyber-punk science fiction set in Nigeria.
Aliens invade Earth in 2066 and London is demolished and America goes dark. In Nigeria, a vast alien dome appears and a human city, Rosewater, grows around it. Once a year, everyone near the dome is healed. Kaaro is a thief-cum-sensitive who fights terrorism, but a mysterious sickness seems to be targeting sensitives.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
by Kai Ashante Wilson, 2015
Literary fantasy set in ancient Africa.
Demane is a demigod, known among the humans he tries to blend in with as Sorcerer, the second-in-command of a mercenary band. The band is to travel south with a rich merchant, however, they must cross the Wildeeps jungle. À la the Mirkwood forest, there’s one safe road but the legendary jock-toothed tiger in the forest is free to roam where it will.
The Killing Moon
by N.K. Jemisin, 2012
A magical fantasy novel inspired by Egyptian history and culture.
Gujarreh is filled with peace thanks to the Gatherers who serve the dream-goddess. They harvest the magic brought forth in sleep and use it to heal and sooth the city-state. When dreamers are murdered in the goddess’ name, Ehiru, a Gatherer, must question everything or watch war overcome the peace of Gujarreh.
Who Fears Death
by Nnedi Okorafor, 2010
A post-apocalyptic tale that explores race and belonging.
Onyesonwu’s name means “Who fears death?” but she is marked by more than her name. Onye is an Ewu, a mixed race child born from rape who can only expect to be rejected by her community. Onye discovers she has magic within herself, but when she unexpectedly visits the spirit realm, she learns someone powerful wants her dead.
by Lauren Beukes, 2010
An alternative version of Johannesburg.
Criminals are animalled for their wrong doing and paired with an animal familiar that gives them a psychic power. They can never part from the animal or else face a violent and sudden death. Zinzi is paired with a sloth after she gets her brother killed. She’s a recovering drug addict who needs to repay her dealer so Zinzi puts her skill at finding lost objects to work locating a member of a pop duo.
Wizard of the Crow
by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, 2006
A dark satire influenced by Kenya’s political history.
The Free Republic of Aburiria is controlled by the Ruler. Kamiti is a healer but otherwise unemployed. His lover, Nyawira, is the leader for the Movement for the Voice of the People. Kamiti pretends to be a powerful wizard, but he is, in fact, from a line of seerers and the spells he cast land surprisingly well, eventually bringing him face-to-face with the Ruler.
What have you read? What do you plan to? Let us know in the comments.
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