Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi is the sequel to What Sunny Saw in the Flames (or Akata Witch), the coming-of-age story of Sunny, a girl with albinism who lives in Nigeria and who discovers that she is part of the secret society of the ‘Leopard People’. The first novel sets the scene, introduces the characters and the protagonist to us, the writing is quite simple and straightforward. The sequel follows Sunny as she continues her ‘juju’ training with the help of her friends and her new mentor and gets ready to face a terrifying lake monster who tries to push the world into an apocalypse. As Sunny matures, so does the novel itself: the writing style matures, the story becomes more intricate, and the characters come alive in more detail on the pages.
Nnedi Okorafor’s sublime writing skills transport us with Sunny through her various adventures, tests and travels. We see how the formerly confused and overwhelmed Sunny becomes more confident in her own abilities as a Leopard Person, we see how she grows into her new role and her new life, and how she learns to integrate her magical abilities into her everyday life. She discovers where her abilities come from and delves deeper into her own family history. Even though she made a pact with her friends to never divulge any information about the Leopard People to the ‘lamb people’ (ordinary humans), she manages to make her family understand that she is special and that she has to change her lifestyle without giving away anything concrete. Initially, Sunny was terrified that she would be unable to fully combine her two identities, but she eventually manages not only to seamlessly combine her lives, but to form a closer and tighter relationship with her brothers.
Apart from enjoying Nnedi Okorafor’s excellent storytelling skills, my favourite parts of both What Sunny Saw in the Flames and Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi, were Okorafor’s social and political comments, as well as her use of Nigeria and its traditions as a backdrop for her story. Reading parts of this book while being in Nigeria and shortly before coming has enriched my understanding of it. I happened to come to the same area as Sunny and her friends are living in, and the book has changed some of my views on aspects of culture and tradition in the South of Nigeria. While I used to be terrified of the masquerades in the area, for example, seeing them now transports me back into the novel and reminds me of some of the explanations given about them in the book.
What makes Okorafor’s writing so compelling is the fact that she mixed fantasy with reality. Her characters are deeply rooted in present-day Nigeria with all its ups and downs, and, if you believe a little bit in magic and the fact that there is usually more to things than meets the eye, the story about Sunny and the mysteries of Osisi might as well be true….
*This book was sent to us free of charge by Cassava Republic ahead of publication.