Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Rating 5.0/10
Okorafor’s elegant prose and imaginative ideas on culture and futurism are once again on display

I enjoyed the Nebula and Hugo award-winning Binti very much and thought the sequel, Binti: Home, was even better. There were many reasons to look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy: we were left with an exciting cliffhanger, some new revelations about the nature of Binti’s past, plenty of forward momentum on some of the bigger mysteries left to tell, and strong developments in Binti’s maturity and self-realization. Unfortunately, Binti: The Night Masquerade disappointed me in many of these areas.

Although Nnedi Okorafor’s elegant prose and imaginative ideas on culture and futurism are once again on display, there were several major plot points that seemed to dissolve into nothing. Okorafor seems to agree, as she describes the resolution of one of the major mysteries as “anti-climactic.” Not every plot point needs to have a grand reveal, but this choice felt like there wasn’t much effort to plan or solve this mystery from the start. I spent some time thinking about what argument Okorafor might be making on the nature of war or diplomacy, but the fallout of certain major events and their non-resolutions left me wondering why certain themes were included in the first place.

Once again, Binit’s identity expands outside herself, and she struggles to figure out who she really is. This was the underlying theme of Binti: Home and I was a bit surprised to discover that this situation was going to be leaned on again. The book ends abruptly and Binti appears to be in a more confusing and challenged mental state than she was before the story began. Instead of character progression, it felt like character regression. There’s nothing wrong with writing a character that follows that particular arc, but it felt like it was a sharp turn from the direction Binti had been moving all along. This was a story of how a girl relies on her intellect, intuition, and empathy to promote peace and harmony between races and technologies. By the third act, Binti’s survival comes into question, a peace accord is broken, and her identity crisis seems worse than ever.

What is the author saying? Such a hopeful story, but from the way it ends, it almost felt like the message was that a lot of her efforts were an exercise in futility. Binti is still a teenager so she still has much room to grow, but I found it difficult to digest the mixed messages that the story landed on.

However, don’t let this mediocre score deter you from starting this trilogy; your results may be different to mine. Even though this third novella was a slight disappointment in comparison to the first two, I still think Binti’s journey is a fascinating and worthwhile adventure to experience for yourself.

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