REVIEW: A Dance For The Dead by Nuzo Onoh

Nuzo Onoh lives up to her title of “Queen of African horror” with her latest novel, A Dance For The Dead. Stitched with powerful imageries of dark magics and secret rites, Onoh weaves a macabre tale of revenge.

A Dance for the DeadA Dance For The Dead takes place in the Kingdom of Ukari and the ten villages. The world Onoh depicts is one of cruelty and raw beauty. I was mesmorized with the culture, from the famed festivals featuring dancing and drinking sweet palm-wine to ritual sacrificing and the nightmares plaquing the Ukari village every night.

The morality of the characters in A Dance For The Dead are complex as their culture demands of them. The Kingdom of Ukari has many enemies and scheming allies. Slavery is rampant and even those born into power can have their titles stripped all so easily. Learning the hidden secrets and traumatic pasts of these morally gray characters intensified the frightening moments of Onoh’s novel.

A Dance For The Dead is told from three points of view. Diké is the first-born son of King Ezeala and leader of Ogwumii, the deadly warrior cult. While he was asleep, traitors had moved his body into the forbidden Shrine of Ogu n’Udo. In a span of one night, the heir to the Ukari throne has become an Osu, a fate worse than death. To reclaim his name, he must risk his life and face horrors in the ancestral realm. Big-Bosom is a woman haunted by her late father’s dishonored legacy. While she is of marrying age, no man will ever wed into the clan of the traitor. She longs to escape her abusive brothers and to have the affection of Ife, the youngest son of the King.

Among the first introduced in A Dance For The Dead is Ife. He is titled “Feather-Feet” and famed as the reincarnation of Mgbada, the greatest dancer in the ten villages and beyond. He resists traditional expectations of marriage, preferring to spend his nights dancing and getting drunk on palm-wine. His merriment days end when his older brother Diké falls from grace. Now he must find his courage to save his brother.

A Dance For The Dead is fast paced and flushed with bone-chilling scenes. I love how Onoh uses horror to drive character development. Nothing is scary for the sake of jump scares, rather her horror elements give expression to past wrongs. I did wish certain parts were slowed down, especially relationships between certain characters. While the outcome felt natural, I wanted to see more of their development.

A Dance For The Dead is a celebration of nightmarish imagination. It is African-horror triumphant. I am eager to read more from Nuzo Onoh.

Read A Dance For The Dead by Nuzo Onoh

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Carrie Chi Lough

Carrie Chi Lough

Carrie resides in Colorado with her other half and their puppy, Irwin. She is always searching for dark SFF and horror stories to bury herself in.