Source: Netgalley, thank you to the publisher! Note: I did also purchase my own copy I loved it so much.
TL; DR : An amazing new middle-grade story about a young black girl finding power in what she sees as her greatest flaw – her hair!
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun takes the ‘fantasy magical school’ trope we know and love and spins in a whole new way. Onyeka is a young girl with untamable hair, when one day she finds out that she’s not quite human. She’s Solari and her unique power manifests through her hair. She sets out on a journey to find her Dad and discover more of the world of the Solari by returning to Nigeria where her family is from.
The premise of this sounded amazing. The idea of a young black girl having a power that manifests through her hair just really sounded unique and needed. In fact in the author’s note Tọlá Okogwu talks about how she, as a hair care educator did this on purpose. I loved seeing what Onyeka thought was her greatest flaw become her greatest gift. The story pulls out some amazing Black Panther meets X-Men vibes as well, making this a hell of a fun adventure story.
When Onyeka arrives in Nigera to attend the Academy of the Sun she begins to meet new friends, learn about what being a Solari means and what it means for her. The characters we meet have nuance, their powers are often what you’d see but the characters themselves are unique. I especially loved Hassan, who starts teaching Onyeka Pidgin English and who uses his force field abilities to sneak away to complete salat during the day (He must be protected at all costs). These powers were also very cleverly used. Hassan’s force field abilities are used both as a force field, but also as a camouflage tool, being able to blend in to what’s around him. Adanna is a synesthetic empath, emotions come to her as sounds or smells. That sounds both amazing and horrifying!
I could predict and see where a lot of the plot beats were going to go but ultimately I was so invested in how we got there and what the character were doing that I didn’t care. This was a fantastic middle-grade with themes I think a lot of young kids need to see. I cannot wait to read more in this series.
5 out of 5 plates of yummy Akara from me