Five Best African Fantasy Novels

Panhuman Books — October 28, 2021

Many fantasy fans think that every must-read fantasy world is set in a fictional medieval Europe-like scenery. Unless you are an anime fan (in which case you might be well familiar with Japanese folklore), when you think of a fantasy book, you most likely imagine a white warrior fighting a monstrous villain to protect a beautiful (and also white) princess.

There are plenty of outstanding fantasy worlds that do not have European legacy. In this article, we would like to introduce you to some of the most renowned African classic and contemporary fantasy books.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha Series)

by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone is one of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time according to Time magazine. It’s the first book of the Legacy of Orïsha saga. When it was published in 2018, it found itself on all major bestseller lists. The success is well deserved. The epic goes beyond the breathtaking description of the fictional Kingdom of Orïsha and captivating plot. Adeyemi uses her West African-inspired fantasy as a means to dissect systemic racism.

Years ago, the magic-wielding maji people were wiped out by a ruthless king. Zélie Adebola, a teenage maji girl whose mother was killed by the king’s order, has a chance to bring the magic back and return hope to her people.

Akata Witch (The Nsibidi Scripts)

by Nnedi Okorafor

The first book of The Nsibidi Scripts trilogy is often referred to as an African Harry Potter. It is, however, a unique stunning story filled with African magic.

Born in New York to Nigerian parents, Sunny goes back to their home country. There, she finds it hard to fit in. She has West African features, but she looks different from the people surrounding her - Sunny is albino. Her exciting journey starts when she discovers she is a “free agent” with latent magical powers. Now, she needs to learn how to use these powers and change reality... This novel is one of the Time’s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time as well.

The Rage of Dragons (The Burning)

by Evan Winter

The first of The Burning series, The Rage of Dragons is often marketed as a cross between the Gladiator and Game of Thrones. This epic fantasy is also included in Time’s list of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time.

The series is set in a South African-inspired fantasy world. The Omehi people have been fighting an endless war for almost two hundred years. Some of them are born with magical powers, but most are ordinary people used as fodders in this cruel war. Young Tau is an ordinary person with a plan to escape the war and settle down to marriage, children, and land. But soon he finds himself on a different path…

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

by Amos Tutuola

Another masterpiece from Time’s list of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was first published in 1954. Tutuola was the first known writer who synthesized the African mythology with the imagery of the industrialized West. The surreal narrative of the author will fascinate the admirers of magical realism and quirky folklore.

When a 7-year-old boy flees from slave traders, he finds refuge in the African bush. He is doomed to traverse the strange world inhabited by ghosts and other fantastical beings. As his quest continues for 24 years, the boy gradually changes his human form…

In 1981 musicians David Byrne and Brian Eno recorded an album by the same title with songs inspired by Tutuola’s novel.

Wizard of the Crow

by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Since its publication in 2007, this book has become one of the classics of the African translated literature. It gracefully spans across fantasy and magical realism. The novel will especially appeal to readers who like political fiction, satire and philosophical humor.

Wizard of the Crow is set in the fictional Free Republic of Aburiria and explores a battle between a narcissistic dictator and an unemployed young man for the souls of the Aburrian people.