Today Marshmallow reviews a 2020 novel by Nnedi Okorafor: Ikenga. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.
Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, what do you want to tell us about this book?
Marshmallow: Ikenga is about a twelve-year-old boy named Nnamdi, whose father used to be the police chief in their village in Nigeria. But the father is killed and his murderer has not been caught. Nnamdi feels weak, because he knows who the murderer is but he is too young to do anything about it. But one day, his father’s spirit visits him, and gives him an Ikenga, a small statue of a horned creature who gives Nnamdi great powers, making him transform into a powerful, seven-foot-tall man.
S: That is very interesting. So he transforms like the Incredible Hulk, or like Superman or Batman, into a hero with super powers.
M: Yes. The village he is from is very corrupt, and Nnamdi takes on the criminals who do whatever they want and go unpunished. But along the way he also needs to figure out how to control his powers.
S: So is there a lot of violence in the book then?
M: There are some fight scenes, so I think one could call it violent, but we mainly see everything through Nnamdi’s perspective, and we see him go through his daily life with his mom, and it does not feel like violence is the central theme.
S: What would you say the central theme is?
M: I think it is about controlling your own emotions, your own powers. Nnamdi needs to figure out how to control his new powers, or he might start hurting people he cares about.
S: So would you say it is about self-control or about knowing yourself?
M: I’d say both.
S: I understand that the author uses a lot of ingredients from Nigerian and Igbo mythology and spirituality. Did you find it difficult to enter into that world?
M: The author really creates a vivid world, a totally convincing one, and so as the reader I found it really easy to get into the story and its story world.
S: That is really great to hear. I’m really getting eager to read Ikenga. Some of what you are telling me reminds me of Children of Blood and Bone, also by a Nigerian-American author, Tomi Adeyemi, who was able to create a completely captivating world in Africa, of magic, spirits, and myths. But of course you have not read that book yet. So let me ask you another question. If you were able to ask one question to the author, what would it be?
M: Let me think. I think the story wraps up really well, and the author doesn’t keep us hanging but I found Nnamdi and his world fascinating, and am kind of curious if the author would be writing more about Nnamdi in the future.
S: Hmm, I think that is an interesting question. This is a recent book, so we do not know if there will be a sequel, and if as you say, the story is already wrapped up well, there may not be. But maybe we will explore other books the author wrote. She does have several others; she apparently was a national-level athlete in high school before getting paralyzed and turning to writing.
M: I did not know that.
S: Yes, her story is very moving. But she is a very interesting writer, and maybe we will read more books from her.
M: I’d like that!
S: Okay, this is probably a good time to wrap up this review. How would you rate this book?
M: I’d rate it 95%.
S: Thanks. And what do you want to tell our readers?
M: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!