Review: Zahra the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Book cover: Zahra touches her long, black dada locks (hair interlocked with vines). In the background you can see a peach-coloured sky and some green plants. Looking through the plants, near the right-hand of Zahra, is a gorilla.

I decided to read Zahrah the Windseeker as it was about a girl with vines in her hair. I wanted to understand what role they would play in her story. It was also listed on the #DiverseReads2017 reading list as a book based on Nigerian mythology. It’s #ownvoices for black representation.

The good

Zahra dresses with style (which is viewed positively in her region) but still sees herself as unattractive due to her dada locks. I thought that was a very well-written intersectional part of the book. However, the story doesn’t just revolve around this discrimination issue but delves into different topics: her relationship with her parents and one friend, school and learning to be herself.

I was very taken by the world-building in this story. The descriptions of the Ooni Kingdom and planet Ginen were amazing. The execution of the idea that plants can be grown into technological devices and infrastructure was well done . I also liked the thought put into the different animals that were introduced throughout the story.

Nsibi is introduced as the only other dada that Zahra has ever met. She’s my favourite character in the book. The revelation that she made at the end about the planet Earth left me wanting to know more about the new worlds that could be discovered in this universe. I was very disappointed to find out that this is a stand-alone book, and that I would be not be able to learn more about Nsibi.

The bad

In my opinion, once Zahra went on her quest, the main storyline was not interesting anymore. Furthermore, Zahra is described as a perfect person, who can do nothing wrong. This made her rather boring in my eyes. All the characters she meets and talks to on her quest think she’s great. I don’t recall her having any negative traits.

Every character, apart from Zahra, seemed to exist only to interact with her.

A romantic attraction, which I didn’t care for at all, is implied between Zahra and her friend. I don’t see why it was necessary for the plot. I think that friendship would have been more than enough.

The one sentence I absolutely didn’t like in the book is where Zahra states that she is physically a woman due to having got her first period. It’s a gender binary narrative and cis-normative.

All in all

Even though, I wasn’t that interested in the main storyline, I still couldn’t stop reading the book due to the amazing world that had been created. The descriptions were perfectly written. Most stories that I have read that take place on another planet describe the characters as white and the world as a predominantly white world. This book however is not white-normative but based on Nigeria.

3 out of 5 stars; What I liked: amazing world building; What I disliked: gender binary description, main storyline didn’t catch my interest

5 thoughts on “Review: Zahra the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

  1. Interesting review of Zahra the Windseeker. My daughter just finished reading this one and loved it (she’s in third grade). She’s encouraging me to read it next.


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