Review posted September 17, 2012.
Viking, 2011. 349 pages.
Here's a fantasy tale of a young person discovering she has magic that is nothing like any other book I've read. Because this young lady, Sunny, lives in Nigeria.
Our main character explains herself:
My name is Sunny Nwazue and I confuse people.
I have two older brothers, like my parents, my brothers were both born here in Nigeria. Then my family moved to America, where I was born in the city of New York. When I was nine, we returned to Nigeria, near the town of Aba. My parents felt it would be a better place to raise my brothers and me, at least that's what my mom says. We're Igbo -- that's an ethnic group from Nigeria -- so I'm American and Igbo, I guess.
You see why I confuse people? I'm Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I've got light yellow hair, skin the color of "sour milk" (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I'm albino.
Then Sunny learns that she is a Leopard Person, a person with mystical abilities. She is a Free Agent, someone whose parents are not Leopard People, but are Lambs. And she runs across two other children from Leopard families who have also recently discovered their abilities.
If this sounds like Harry Potter's world, the basic set-up is similar, with Leopard People instead of Wizards, Lambs instead of Muggles, and Free Agents instead of Muggle-born. Sunny and her friends must learn to use the magic and also to combat a powerful and evil Leopard Person who is carrying out ritual killings. But that's where the similarity ends. The magic used is African magic and very different from the magic in Harry Potter's world.
Though this book is complete and has a satisfying climax, it's very much a beginning. Sunny finds things out about this new magical world she's part of, and she has many questions about what it means for her life. This book provides a detailed and evocative set-up as well as being a gripping story by itself. I will snatch up any further adventures of Sunny and her friends as soon as they come out.