Thursday, June 9, 2022

Review: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tola Okogwu

It's superhero time! Today's read centers around a girl from Nigeria (and takes place mostly in Nigeria) with...

Well, I think you get the idea from the cover already. Isn't that cover amazing? See the DNA strands in the background? I'm thinking that hints at something more toward science, too. Anyway, this one promises tons and tons of action with girl power and spunk. I've even heard whispers that this series is already in the works for a Netflix version. 

So, get excited! I definitely am.

Oh, and don't forget to scroll down to hear the author read a few pages from the book herself!

Onyeka, Book One
by Tola Okogwu
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Middle Grade Science Fiction
320 pages
ages 8 to 12

JUNE 14th!!!

Black Panther meets X-Men in this action-packed and empowering middle grade adventure about a British Nigerian girl who learns that her Afro hair has psychokinetic powers—perfect for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers, The Marvellers, and Rick Riordan!

Onyeka has a lot of hair­—the kind that makes strangers stop in the street and her peers whisper behind her back. At least she has Cheyenne, her best friend, who couldn’t care less what other people think. Still, Onyeka has always felt insecure about her vibrant curls…until the day Cheyenne almost drowns and Onyeka’s hair takes on a life of its own, inexplicably pulling Cheyenne from the water.

At home, Onyeka’s mother tells her the shocking truth: Onyeka’s psycho-kinetic powers make her a Solari, one of a secret group of people with super powers unique to Nigeria. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies…



This sells as a Black Panther meets X-Men, tosses a nod at the Harry Potter series, and skims along with a slight feeling of the Percy Jackson books but adds science and high-tech to the mix. So, to say that this one packs a punch is an understatement.

Onyeka lives under the over-protective eyes of her strict but loving mother and wishes she could stretch into a little more independence...and finally find a way to tame her overly difficult hair. When a battle with a swim cap and a hard fought for trip to the swimming pool finds her best friend drowning in front of her eyes, her worries shoot into high gear. And so does her hair. Her mother has no choice but to admit that Onyeka is a Solari, a not-quite-human with exceptional powers, and she inherited these from her missing father. Unable to deal with the new situation alone, the two fly back to Nigeria where the mother embarks on a search for Onyeka's father, while leaving her in a school for Solari, so that Onyeka can learn more about her powers and find protection from those hunting her mother and her. While Onyeka is eager to meet those like her, fitting in is hard when everyone around her has wielded their powers since they were young kids. She's a misfit. Again. But there's more to it than that, and it's exactly those secrets, which are about to expose an intrigue even superpowers may not be able to fight.

The plot in these pages is rich and full and woven, and packs more than just a little intrigue of a few secrets and surprises. The beginning starts out smooth, slow, and gives hints at the super-power, making it not so surprising when Onyeka's hair suddenly rescues her friend. But this also allows the reader to gain more sympathy with Onyeka and not only center on her hair before the story launches into high-gear.

From the minute Onyeka sets foot in the academy, she's got her hands full. Starting with the usual bullying and problem of not fitting in, the more over-reaching plot also grows. There are tons of characters, each layered with good and bad. All the while, Onyeka's dealing with her new powers, but even there, other aspects slowly roll into play. There's definitely a lot of weaving and laying out of plot threads to lead into the rest of the series. The ending isn't well-rounded, leaving the reader, instead, to wait for the next book to I'm definitely looking forward to now.

Action fans are going to love this one. It stretches past fantasy to take a more scientific twist. Ike, the name they give to the center of their powers, comes in a variety of forms and has an surprising origin, which will delight STEM fans. The Nigerian culture flows in naturally and even a bit of history is added, which I found to be a nice touch. I did miss a little more description on Nigeria (the landscape, housing, and such) outside of the academy and high-tech, solar-supported area, since I doubt many readers know much about the country. Some of the character relationships and logic glides over a little superficial, but then, action is key and is what makes this book a fun and easy read. 

This is a quick-paced story, which packs tons of tropes but still weaves it around for an original and exciting twist. It's definitely not easy to put down and lays the ground work for what promises to be an exciting series. 

And here she is...

Tolá Okogwu
is a British Nigerian author, journalist, and hair care educator. Born in Nigeria but raised in London, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Having spent several years exploring the world of blogging, haircare, and freelance writing, she finally returned to her first love…fiction. She is the author of 
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun, the self-published picture book series Daddy Do My Hair, and Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door under the name Lola Morayo. Tola lives in Kent, England, with her husband and two daughters. An avid reader and lover of music, she’s also a sucker for melted cheese. Learn more at

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