Onyeka by Tolá Okogwu – Book Review – Netflix

This website contains affiliate links. As an affiliate I may earn money from qualifying purchases. Thank you if you do use one of my links – it helps keep my website going. Please see affiliate link and disclaimer page for more information.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu

If you haven’t heard of Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu published by Simon and Schuster then you must have been living under a rock in 2022. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get a copy and start reading. I very much wished I’d been swifter!

Quick Summary

– Black main character and majority of the book – black characters
– Afro hair positive
– Black author
– Based briefly in London and then Nigeria
– Fast paced
– Action, adventure, super-powers
– Sci-fi/ fantasy
– Positive role models
– Accepting and loving who you are

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun Netflix Film Adaptation

I can totally see why this book has had so much hype. What a brilliant middle grade read suitable from around 8 years plus +. Although I’d be tempted to read this one to my daughter aged 6 as I think she’d love the action.

In February 2022 it was announced there would be a film adaptation. From Netflix together with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and David Oyelowo’s Yoruba Saxon. How exciting.

Nigerian Authors and Books Based in Nigeria

Back in the Summer (2022) I read another book by a Nigerian author Efua Traore.The House of Shells (find my review here). It was my best read of the Summer. I’d got high hopes that I would learn more about Nigeria in Onyeka by British-Nigerian author Tolá Okogwu.

Photograph (c) Dujonna Gift-Simms

I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the food references throughout. Especially the details of what the foods were at the back of the book. Zobo is needed in my life! Also the use of Nigerian Pidgin English by one of the characters taught me new things and the use felt very natural and valued.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun Synopsis

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun tells the story of Onyeka a Nigerian born girl living in London. She doesn’t feel like she fits in. Her afro hair seems to have a mind of its own and just won’t be tamed to let her fit in with her peers.

When her best friend Cheyenne has a freak accident at the pool not even Onyeka can explain what happened. Her mother knows and knows it’s time they must return to Nigeria, even with the danger this poses. They must find Onyeka’s father.

Back in Nigeria Onyeka begins to understand and embrace her own identity as she learns of the superpowers of the Solari. Yet there are dark forces at work who will stop at nothing to build their army and destroy those who get in their way.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun Book Review

It’s pacey, rich and empowering. I loved how Onyeka, with the help of unlikely allies and an old friend, learns to use her superpower – her afro hair.

The beauty, magic and power of Onyeka’s hair is interwoven throughout the story and I can see lots of children reading this story wanting hair just like Onyeka’s. However, the book shows the true treasure is embracing you and what makes you unique. Each character having their own superpower – even in the case of Cheyenne where her superpower is simply being an incredible friend.

My favourite part of the book is when Onyeka makes a stand in the canteen. This is before she really starts to truly understand herself more and her background yet the strength of her character, even in a vulnerable position, was incredible and shone through. What fierce bravery. It had me shouting out loud how proud I was of her!

Do check out a taster of the book read by the author below.

I’ve always had a fondness for anything maths so particularly enjoyed Onyeka’s self regulating using the Fibonacci sequence. Adanna’s synaesthesia was also an interest point. You can find out a little more about synaesthesia in my Kandinsky blog post here.

There’s also lots of sci-fi – well carefully married with hints of science fact. Hyperloops took me down an internet searching, fascinating rabbit hole – thank you for that Tola.

Predictable Plot or Carefully Selected Hints?

Other reviewers have mentioned that they thought the plot was quite predictable. I would say the plot was perfect for a middle grade reader. The hints and clues at where to look were in my opinion perfectly placed and timed and would give children a very satisfying feeling if they put the pieces together before the big reveal. Equally, it wouldn’t matter if they hadn’t pieced things together.

Final Thoughts

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is a perfect, fiery, action packed middle grade, must-read. Enjoy! If you’ve read Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun I’d love to know what you thought in the comments below.

Next Book Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels

There is another book – Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels – to follow and I shan’t wait so long to buy this one (I think I’ll have to pre-order) as I really want to find out what happens next.

Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels Review

Publishing 2nd March 2023

Quick Summary

– Black characters including man characters
– Afro hair positive
– Black author
– Based in Nigeria
– Fast paced
– Action, adventure, super-powers
– Sci-fi/ fantasy
– Positive role models
– Not allowing obstacles and difficulties to swallow up everything
– The power of friendship, trust and relying on others

Having recently finished Tolá Okogwu’s first installment of Onyeka I was eager to begin Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels. Book 2 is brilliant, yet another middle grade wonder for readers of around 8 years plus.

Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels Synopsis

Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels continues just where we left off in book 1. I want to be careful not to give away any spoilers for either book 1 or 2. Here goes… Onyeka and the rest of Nchebe are on the run. Each safe haven becomes more perilous. Soon they are forced to ally themselves with the most unlikely of people to try and help return Niyì’s Ike superpower and save those they love. Not to mention trying to enlighten and save the whole Solari race.

It’s thoroughly fulfilling getting to know the characters we met in the first book even more deeply. Tolá masterly creates such vivid imagery of her characters in your mind. Each so unique with diverse skills that blend together wonderfully.

In book 2 we start to see cracks appear as some friendships are strained. The storyline plays out these rifts so well helping the reader to understand that some things are more complicated, are deep rooted and take more time to resolve. Rise of the Rebels is such an empowering book with strong, flawed, yet loveable characters that you will be rooting for throughout.

Again, as with book one, the action is fast and you are left desperate to keep reading to know what’s happening next. If you’ve already read book 1 you must read this one and I was delighted to see that there will be a book 3 in 2024!

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for my eARC of book 2.

Pin it for Later

Let us know your thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.