I've had The Shadow Speaker on my wishlist for as long as I've known of its existence as a work-in-progress, basically since I read Zahrah the Windseeker, a novel that I adored. I finally got a copy for Christmas, but I didn't read it right away. I wanted to save it, to savor it.
The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Driven by vengeance. Destined for peace. Niger, West Africa, 2070: After fifteen-year old Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, her world shatters. In an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, Ejii embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father's killer. With a newfound friend by her side, Ejii comes face to face with an earth turned inside out-and with her own magical powers. But Ejii soon discovers that her travels across the sands of the Sahara have a greater purpose. Her people need to be protected from a force seeking to annihilate them. And Ejii may be just the hero to do it. This futuristic, fantastical adventure heralds a bright new talent on the YA fantasy scene.
The Shadow Speaker is set in the same world as Zahrah, but it is decidedly more futuristic. While it is not necessary to read Zahrah to understand The Shadow Speaker, it's fascinating to see how Okorafor-Mbachu fleshes out her setting from one book to the other. In The Shadow Speaker, the world is definitely more fully realized and it is also put in broader context (it is clear in The Shadow Speaker how their world fits in with ours).
While The Shadow Speaker is a good novel, I don't think that it has the same heart as Zahrah (of course, I loved Zahrah so I am a bit biased). It is a bildungsroman that deals with the same issues, but its target audience is a bit older. Highly recommended for the 12-and-up crowd, in any case.