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Summary

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in postapocalyptic Africa. 

Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin! 

In a postapocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the colour of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different - special - she names her Onyesonwu, which means 'who fears death?' in an ancient language. 

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu - a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her. 

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love and the spiritual mysteries of her culture and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

©2018 Nnedi Okorafor (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Who Fears Death

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant Book perfectly Narrated

I don’t have time to write a full review, all I will say is Nnedi Okorafor is a truly formidable and evocative storyteller who even the likes of George R R Martin have praised. I already own the paperback and decided to give the audiobook a try... What I didn’t expect was such this utterly flawless and authentic performance by Nneka Okoye. This was more than simply narrating the book. Okoye perfectly embodies the character of Onyesonwu and brings the story to life. Perfectly executed.

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Amazing!!!

An absolute must listen! You might be thinking yeah but it's long... Honestly, I didn't even notice the time passing and I straight away downloaded the prequel

1 person found this helpful

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an epic tale

this has all the makings of an excellent HBO series but this is both a strength and weakness. the book really is epic: I particularly enjoyed the first 2 parts but much of the last part was like that of lord of the rings - I felt battle weary! an exciting finale however with a useful open ending. nearly gave up after 10 hours but glad I stuck with it.

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Underwhelming ending

After all the build up in Part 1 of the book, the ending felt rushed. The epic meeting up of the girl & her father was lackluster. Great performance by the narrator though.

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Just went on and on....

I have read a couple of this author's previous Sci-Fi novellas, and really enjoyed them, not least because I was bored with reading space opera that was just the US navy and/or marines with some minor rewrites. So while the basis of this in African culture should have been a plus, and I was comfortable enough with the metaphysical/supernatural rather than 'hard Sci-Fi' emphasis, this really needed a firm hand from an editor to do tell the author to do some ruthless pruning of the draft text. The pace is so tediously slow, with so little real development of the characters as the literally wander about doing very little, that I just ran out of patience and stopped listening, which is rare for me. By that time, I just couldn't be bothered to find out what happened next, or to whom, or why.
The narration is fine, but could not rescue it - not her fault.

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Enjoyed the narration but struggled with the story

I loved the concept and this was well read. It is also well written clearly. The action moments were brilliantly done - this will be great if it ever nakes it to TV or movie. That said there were definitely moments where I struggled to finish the book and am not sure if that was the length, number of characters, etc. Either way, still a good Afrofuturistic book!

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Mindbending. Highly recommended.

I loved how this is a Sci Fi novel, but wrapped up in real - world issues,enabling the reader to explore some awful events that happen to people, while at the same time allowing them to distance themselves from it by placing the events in a future world, with magic. This is so much more than a sci fi adventure novel; it's focus on the issue of violence makes this an important part of any reader's audible 'library'.


The characters are so convincing, brimming with life, jumping from the words into your imagination. The desert itself is a strong character, when you reflect on it and I have such a powerful view of it in my mind. The protagonist is so wonderful, and these are all definitely characters I will miss now I've finished reading. I wish there was a sequel, but I will have to make do with the prequel!




The style of the writing is pleasurable to listen to, and as with all sci fi I find I did have to focus to really build a clear sense of what is being described. The journey in the desert is depicted exactly how difficult journeys un the wild actually are, and the notes on the food they have to eat to survive really do feel believable. Also, by detailing violent events at length and with no vagueness, the writer allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in this world of extremes. It is notable that George RR Martin is producing a TV series of this novel, given the extreme, unflinching violence of those shows! The narrator is wonderful - a real joy to listen to.

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A chore to read

This book has real potential but I felt kind it was ridiculously long 62 chapters or more. I found myself getting confused and bored at times as it was hard to keep track at times. There seems to be a bit of an obsession throughout the book about bodily fluids, and I was getting sick and tired of hearing words like intercourse, semen and feces by the end. It felt like the author enjoyed the shock factor a bit much at times. I enjoyed parts of the story but I found it very confusing and it just seemed to drag on. I’m not sure I really understood the ending either, did she actually die or not? I felt that went on for too long and I found the main characters actions and behaviour quite grating at times, she seemed quite childish and despite the book showing her physical development her maturity was often lacking. At times if felt like reading a young adult book except for the graphic descriptions of sex, violence and rape. I felt like the author needed to decide who the audience was, at times I felt the characters immaturity matched a YA book except the descriptions of sex and intuitions and violence were so graphic they wouldn’t be included in a book for a younger audience. I’m glad I finished it, but it was a feeling of relief which I felt was a shame as it has some real positives going for it. Maybe better as a film, a series or a two part book. I wouldn’t overly recommend this to friends or family unless they had a particular interest in the subjects covered.

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Challenging take on the Hero's Journey

Okorafor's prose is simple when it wants to be, but masterfully immersive, verging on the poetic when the story requires. If your eyes are dry at the funeral, then we're very different people. This book comes with several strong trigger warnings, but manages to cover all these difficult subjects with sincerity and empathy; even when the protagonist sulks, the story is never flippant. My only complaint is that the audio isn't mixed for headphones, so when Okoye whispers I have to bump the volume up, and when she shouts a sentence later my ear drums blow out. Her actual performance was perfect for the main character, struggling only with the range of lower-register shouty men.

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Sweet sorrow

Beautiful and insightful. The voice of the narrator really brought the story to life. I became present and transported. Thank you

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-04-22

Awesome book, was hard not to listen it in one go

I rarely read/listen to literature/fiction and i found this book trough a Grimes interview with the Author. And i’ve never read anything like it. I like the language used, the storyline and how well it painted the pictures in my head.
I was a bit surprised how brutal it was at moments and i’m not sure if i enjoyed that but for some this would be just how they like it :D
Nice one, recommend.

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  • Liina Ulm
  • 01-01-22

One of my favourite books of all times.

Wonderful fiery story red by a most beautiful voice.
This book has everything - love, passion, adventure, philosophy, beauty... and it makes you look for more.
I hvae listened to it two times in two years, would love to own a physical copy.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Haley
  • 07-09-21

Good but maybe not what I hoped.

This is a book I'd describe as "good" in the academic sense. It's bold, provocative, emotional. It had very powerful themes and actively engages in attacking social issues. There are scenes in this book that are some of the most impactful that I have ever read, and I was brought to tears at least once.

Now, that said. I'm not sure I really enjoyed it. The descriptions are often vivid and poetic but sometimes I just wish it was a bit more clear. If often felt like I didn't really understand what was happening and sure that was probably intentional a lot of the time, but I don't know. The vague magic and soft rules sort of bugged me. It is a fantasy story in that there is magic, but really the purpose it serves is less your typical fantasy story and more a metaphor for empowerment.

If you want something different and interesting that you'll want to talk about and discuss this is a great choice.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-04-21

An absolute masterpiece

I can't think how this book could have been better. It has instantly become one of my all time favorites. The imagery, the magic, the pain, and beauty. I laughed and cried, and had goosebumps. Nneka Okoye added to the experience with her brilliant narration.

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  • Arsène
  • 27-08-20

Magnificent!

Extremely good story, pace, narration, world...
One of the best books I have ever read