I was blown away by the brilliance of blockbuster Marvel movie Black Panther! In particular I loved the sub-Saharan African setting.
It made me think what adult fantasy and science fiction novels are out there with similar settings. So… after a bit of digging around the internet, Goodreads, Reddit r/fantasy and Amazon, here are 11 books that I’m going to be checking out and one that I’ve already read that I definitely recommend. Majority are fantasy, but all are either set in Africa or have African inspired settings.
Listed below in no particular order...
1) Who Fears Death (Who Fears Death #1) by Nnedi Okorafor – science fantasy
In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.
Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny – to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture – and eventually death itself.
2) The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps #1) by Kai Ashante Wilson – epic fantasy
Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors' artefacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.
The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.
The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.
3) Rosewater by Tade Thompson – science fiction
Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a woman known as Bicycle Girl. And that’s just the beginning.
An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The citizens of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn’t so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.
4) The Famished Road by Ben Okri – magical realism
The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells is full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the land of the dead, he is resurrected. But in their efforts to save their child, Azaro's loving parents are made destitute. The tension between the land of the living, with its violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits propels this latter-day Lazarus's story.
My note: I read this one about ten years ago, maybe more, and I absolutely LOVED it. I remember it being so surreal and magical. I enjoyed the African setting with the spirits and folklore.
5) Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord – fairy tale
A tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.
A contemporary fairy tale that is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale.
6) The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter – epic fantasy
One in twenty-five hundred Omehi women are Gifted, wielding fragments of their Goddess’ power and capable of controlling the world’s most destructive weapon - Dragons. One in a hundred of their men has blood strong enough for the Gifted to infuse with magic, turning these warriors into near unstoppable colossi.
The rest are bred to fight, ferocious soldiers fated to die in the endless war. Tau Tafari, an Omehi commoner, wants more than this, but his life is destroyed when he’s betrayed by those he was born to serve.
Now, with too few Gifted left and the Omehi facing genocide, Tau cares only for revenge. Following an unthinkable path, he will become the greatest swordsman to ever live, dying a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill three of his own people.
My note: I have this one lined up on my Kindle to read soon!
7) The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola – folktale
When Amos Tutuola's first novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, appeared in 1952, it aroused exceptional worldwide interest. Drawing on the West African (Nigeria) Yoruba oral folktale tradition, Tutuola described the odyssey of a devoted palm-wine drinker through a nightmare of fantastic adventure. Since then, The Palm-Wine Drinkard has been translated into more than 15 languages and has come to be regarded as a masterwork of one of Africa's most influential writers.
8) Imaro (Imaro #1) by Charles R. Saunders – sword and sorcery
Saunders' novel fuses the narrative style of fantasy fiction with a pre-colonial, alternate Africa. Inspired by and directly addresses the alienation of growing up an African American fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which to this day remains a very ethnically homogenous genre. It addresses this both structurally (via its unique setting) and thematically (via its alienated, tribeless hero-protagonist). The tribal tensions and histories presented in this fantasy novel reflect actual African tribal histories and tensions, and provide a unique perspective to current and recent conflicts in Africa, particularly the Rwandan genocide and the ongoing conflict in The Sudan.
9) Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o – magical realism
From the exiled Kenyan novelist, playwright, poet, and literary critic--a magisterial comic novel that is certain to take its place as a landmark of postcolonial African literature.
In exile now for more than twenty years, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has become one of the most widely read African writers of our time, the power and scope of his work garnering him international attention and praise. His aim in Wizard of the Crow is, in his own words, nothing less than “to sum up Africa of the twentieth century in the context of two thousand years of world history.”
Commencing in “our times” and set in the “Free Republic of Aburĩria,” the novel dramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburĩrian people. Among the contenders: His High Mighty Excellency; the eponymous Wizard, an avatar of folklore and wisdom; the corrupt Christian Ministry; and the nefarious Global Bank. Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, Wizard of the Crow reveals humanity in all its endlessly surprising complexity.
10) Changa's Safari (Changa's Safari #1) by Milton J. Davis – sword and sorcery
In the 15th century on the African continent the young prince Changa Diop flees his homeland of Kongo, vowing to seek revenge for the death of his father and free his family and people from the foul sorcerer Usenge. He survives slavery and the fighting pits of Mogadishu, eventually becoming a merchant adventurer whose extraordinary skills and determination makes him a legend. From the Swahili merchant cities of Mombasa and Sofala to the magnificent Middle Kingdom, Changa and his crew experience adventures beyond the imagination. Despite his reputation, Changa will not rest until he has fulfilled his promise to his people. The anchors are lifted and the sails are dropped. Let the safari begin.
11) Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia #1) by David Anthony Durham- epic fantasy
Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World, has inherited generations of apparent peace and prosperity, won ages ago by his ancestors. A widower of high intelligence, he presides over an empire called Acacia, after the idyllic island from which he rules. He dotes on his four children and hides from them the dark realities of traffic in drugs and human lives on which their prosperity depends. He hopes that he might change this, but powerful forces stand in his way. And then a deadly assassin sent from a race called the Mein, exiled long ago to an ice-locked stronghold in the frozen north, strikes at Leodan in the heart of Acacia while they unleash surprise attacks across the empire. On his deathbed, Leodan puts into play a plan to allow his children to escape, each to their separate destiny. And so his children begin a quest to avenge their father's death and restore the Acacian empire—this time on the basis of universal freedom.
12) Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James – epic fantasy, coming soon in 2018
Three characters—the Tracker, the Moon Witch, and the Boy—are locked in a dungeon in the castle of a dying king, awaiting torture and trial for the death of a child. They were three of eight mercenaries who had been hired to find the child; the search, expected to take two months, took nine years. In the end, five of the eight mercenaries, as well as the child, were dead.
What happened? Where did their stories begin? And how did each story end? These are the questions Marlon James poses in the Dark Star Trilogy, three novels set amid African legend and his own fertile imagination – an African Game of Thrones. From royal intrigue to thrilling and dangerous voyages, and complete with pirates, queens, witches, shape-shifters and monsters, these novels are part fantasy, part myth and part detective story...
My note: I listened to the audiobook of Marlon James’ historical fiction A Brief History of Seven Killings. It’s set in Jamaica and I really enjoyed it – I can’t wait for his fantasy debut! You can read my audiobook review here.
Anyone got any more recommendations for adult SFF with an African inspired setting? I’d love to hear them in the comments below, especially some more suggestions of science fiction set in Africa!
>>My debut novel, an epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.<<
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