The shadow speaker's story begins in the year 2070, in Niger, West Africa. The time is after the Big Change. Ejii is a shadow speaker. This means that the shadows tell her stories of the people around her. This is very powerful magic; many people fear those with this power. Ejii is identified as a shadow speaker by her unusual eyes. She finds herself feeling isolated because of this and the fact that her father's children with other wives are treated as more important. Her father does not help her feelings of self-worth. He plans to marry her off to a lowly, lazy son of a baker. Ejii does not want this. Her father has claimed himself to be in charge of her people. He takes away women's rights and puts them in a lower status. To do this, he superseded the power of queen Jaa.
When queen Jaa comes to town with her two husbands, she immediately beheads Ejii's father and takes back control. Unfortunately, Ejii had to witness this. Still she is relieved to have her father's rule ended. She is sad because he was not always the evil, control hungry person that he had evolved into. Ejii is dealing with her own issues of who she and has not come to realize her worth. Queen Jaa wants to apprentice Ejii to her. Her mother feels that at 14 years of age, Ejii is still too young. Ejii feels pulled to leave, especially when the shadows tell her that she must go to help prevent a war.
Ejii leaves with her family's talking camel named "Onion." Along the way, she meets Dikeogu, a young man with a mysterious past. He was sold into slavery by his parents because they feared his powers. Dikeogu tries to hold on to his secrets. Having been betrayed by those close to him, he is afraid to trust. A big part of this adventure involves both of them discovering who they really are and learning to command their powers. As they journey to different places, they learn to develop their powers and they experience tremendous personal growth. They also learn to trust each other.
"The Shadow Speaker" is an incredible story. It is written for children aged 12 and up, yet as a middle aged adult, I totally enjoyed it. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu has such a gift with words. She takes you into the hearts of Ejii and Dikeogu and makes you feel their pain. She also paints colorful pictures of the different places that they travel through. The magic, the people and the creatures all come alive through her writing. There are also a lot of messages contained with in the pages about personal growth for all of us. I would not want to miss this book for the world!
5 out of 5 spaceships
Reviewer: Paige Lovitt for Multiverse Reviews