by Nnedi Okorafor
Sankofa, the Adopted Daughter of Death, is a young girl protected by a green glow from within that can kill all it encompasses. Everyone knows of her, everyone fears her, and the tales told of her are many and varied.
Remote Control takes you through Sankofa’s life, from her youthful bouts of malaria and her conversations with a mysterious seed, through her attempts to live undisturbed in a world that insists on her evilness. This is a tale about perseverance, prejudice, and home.
There’s a lovely metaphor here for all those who have at some point in their lives felt they ruined everything they touched, who have struggled to find a place where they belong, people who could understand them. For those who feel they hurt those closest to them, and try as they might, always seem to destroy good things around them, this tale can be cathartic.
Yet, this story is also for those who have grown stronger because of the thorns on their path. Sankofa might not be who we are, but there’s a piece of her in all of us.
SORCERY OF THORNS
Books about books are always fun, particularly when those books sing and bite and tell on little girls who aren’t where they should be.
This is a tale about Elisabeth, a young woman who grew up in one of the Great Libraries and was taught how to care for the books within. When a visit from a sorcerer and a subsequent attack leaves a dangerous grimoire stolen, Elizabeth finds herself being dragged to the capital and put on a path to solve the mystery of the sabotage and thievery before the Great Libraries fall to a power beyond imagining.
The cast is rounded out by a somewhat-friendly demon, who likes to turn into a cat, and a young sorcerer, who is somehow even less friendly. The story is engaging and quick, adventurous and fun, perfect for anyone looking for a light romp that takes them through magical libraries we all wish we had grown up within ourselves.
Both stories this week are related to the past returning. The characters are wildly different: one a very young girl, reaching for a past she’s never had, and the other a woman who has tried to leave her past behind her.
GRAY SKIES, RED WINGS, BLUE LIPS, BLACK HEARTS by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is a tale set in a society where souls can be eaten or lost, becoming unattached to the person who once owned them, creating soulless. The lead character, Redcap Kestrel, takes up a request to find a missing girl’s soul, but that request leads her through her own history and the people within. Published in Apex.
THE TASTE OF CENTURIES, THE TASTE OF HOME by Jennifer Hudak is a tale about a young girl living in a quiet world where the only humans are her mother and grandmother. Until one day, she sees someone else come through a portal. This leads her to question her grandmother while the two of them bake the bread of her family, wanting to discover all about the world left behind, a world she’s never been to, yet to which she feels connected. Published in khōréō.
THE KINGDOM OF BACK
This is the story of the other Mozart, the sister of the famed musician who was a talented and impressive musician herself.
Nannerl Mozart, desiring to be remembered and not to fall into the heavy shadow of her younger brother, seeks out that chance within a parallel fantasy world that the two of them call the Kingdom of Back, a fairy-tale-like place of dreams and music with a young man there who needs their help to take back his world. And who, in return, would grant Nannerl’s wish.
The story spans Nannerl and Wolfgang’s childhood, their tour across the European landscape in order to perform for the higher classes, and Nannerl’s realization of both her father and the public’s disinterest in her over her brother. This is contrasted with her being the focal within the Kingdom of Back, where she must perform tasks in order to achieve her dreams.
But those dreams will come at a cost, and the further Nannerl goes along this path, the more she questions what she sees and what she’s been told and even what she truly desires above all else.
This story has a clear feminist bent, shedding some attention and light on the amazing and talented historical women who are often forgotten, shadowed by their male counterparts. I recommend this book to anyone, especially young women, who have questioned their own dreams at some point, weighing the costs, but also, to those who feel as if they are the ones who have stood in the shadows behind someone else, despite being just as talented or skilled. And, of course, for those who adore music in their fiction and all the ways that music can stir the soul.
Dragons! These two tales are about two very different dragons, one fiery with fury, one quiet in her passing.
HEART OF ICE by Anna Madden is set in a secondary world and is about a dragon of the water who is in pain after her hatchling has been murdered. This is her path to vengeance, filled with a fury that can not be contained. Published in Zooscape.
AND THE RED DRAGON PASSES by Emily Randolph-Epstein has a contemporary setting and is about the passing of an old dragon and the need for a human who loved her to sing her soul beyond that she might not remain stuck to this physical world. The story goes deeper, dealing with the main character’s view of who she is and her attachment to the dragon who always saw her real self. Published in Zooscape.