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Amy’s Pick of the Week: Dazzling

Cover of the book Dazzling by Chikodili Emulumadu

We often inherit much from our families: traditions, skills, responsibilities. 

I assume, though, that neither you nor I have inherited the family tradition of turning into a leopard to fight injustice. Nor have we bargained with floating spirits so our family could eat or to save our parent from eternal suffering.  

This is what two young girls deal with, however, in Chikodili Emelumadu’s exciting Afrofantasy novel Dazzling.  

At her uncle’s funeral, Ozeomena feels a touch on her shoulder. At this moment her uncle’s spirit chooses her to inherit “the leopard,” the ability to transform into an animal to protect her people. Initially instructed by her grandmother and a village priest about this secret society, Ozeomena is left on her own to fully accept her gift and find her tether, someone who will help keep the leopard in check. Soon Ozeomena attends a boarding school where she starts to build friendships while adjusting to her newfound responsibility. 

The second young girl in the story is known by a few names: Treasure and Dazzling among them. With a dead father and a grief-stricken, bedridden mother, Treasure begs in the marketplace and is offered money from a man who she later learns is a spirit – his feet do not touch the ground! This spirit bargains with her that he will not only provide all that they need, but also insinuates that he can bring her father back from the dead if she agrees to his terms. She cannot turn him away. 

Treasure and Ozeomena both find themselves isolated and encumbered with supernatural beings that demand much from them. Told with parallel chapters, Ozeomena’s and Treasure’s stories soon intersect with a dynamic, magical, and powerful finish.  

Emelumadu’s storytelling is rich and both main characters are wonderfully developed. Each girl’s story is told in different dialects, with Treasure’s chapters written with a Nigerian accent. The story is filled with humor and great descriptions. Treasure, especially, captures emotions and physical characteristics in wonderful – and sometimes intense – ways. 

One could delve deep into issues of class, colonization, religion, and political tension that are brought up as we see Treasure and Ozeomena navigate their burdens. Or, you can simply enjoy the drama as it unfolds. I recommend Dazzling for those who have enjoyed Tomi Ademeyi’s Children of Blood and Bone or anyone who would like to add a little magical realism to their reading life. 

Categories: Books and More

Tags: Books and More

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