I vividly remembered the sensation of having my forehead caved in by a large rock. It didn’t hurt as much as it should have. It just felt like I was suddenly…exposed. A rock destroyed my nose, bloodied my ear, buried itself in my cheek. I was conscious through most of it (p.128)
Who Fears Death explores some dark themes. In post-apocalyptic Africa, widespread enslavement, genocide and rape are a norm in many regions. So much so, that it has become a myth of human existence that many believe in. The central conflict is between the Nuru, a light-skinned people, and the Okeke, a dark-skinned people. In the West the Okeke are enslaved to the Nuru, who are gradually expanding their realm of hate into parts of the East. In this expansion, Nuru men kill Okeke men, and rape Okeke women simply because they can. Sometimes these rapes produce children, half-bloods known was Ewu. They are considered to be children of violence and are frequently outcast by either side. The main character, Onyesonwu, is one of these Ewu.
Who Fears Death contains vivid descriptions of death, murder, rape and genital mutilation. These descriptions hold the book together and keep the reader engaged. Many characters lack depth, and even though it’s supposed to take place in post-apocalyptic Africa, I didn’t always get that feeling. Several folkloric tangents explain why certain things are the way they are, but, sometimes they muddle the narrative.
For a very long time, I was confused as to what the true purpose of Onyesonwu’s quest was. Was it to defy cultural norms, to become a great sorceress, to kill her biological father, to rewrite the Great Book?
Maybe all of the above.
I was only sure of one thing: Onyesonwu’s death. This is the about Onyesonwu’s journey to death, and the mystical things that happen along the way.