Billed as “for fans of Black Panther and Children of Blood and Bone,” Nubia: The Awakening has another draw: it’s co-written by actor and producer Omar Epps, whose dozens of credits include Scream 2, Love & Basketball, House, and This Is Us. io9 has an exclusive excerpt to share today from this upcoming release.
Here’s a plot synopsis to start things off:
For Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, Nubia is a mystery. Before they were born, a massive storm destroyed their ancestral homeland, forcing their families to flee across the ocean to New York City. Nubia, a utopic island nation off the coast of West Africa, was no more, and their parents’ sorrow was too deep for them to share much of their history beyond the folklore.
But New York, ravaged by climate change and class division, is far from a safe haven for refugees, and Nubians live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the constantly flooding lower half of Manhattan, while the rich thrive in the tech-driven sky city known as the Up High.
To many, being Nubian means you’re fated for a life plagued by difficulties and disrespect. But Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are beginning to feel there might be more. Something within them is changing, giving each of them extraordinary powers. Extraordinary and terrifying powers that seem to be tied to the secrets their parents have kept from them.
And there are people Up High watching, eager to do anything they can to become even more powerful than they already are. Now Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho will be faced with the choice—do they use their inheritance to lift their people, or to leave them behind. The fate of their city, and of their people, hangs in the balance.
Here’s the gorgeous full cover by Adeyemi Adegbesan, followed by the excerpt, which introduces the character of Zuberi and the strange world she finds herself in.
She turned back to the bag, shifting her weight as she landed more blows before switching to high kicks. She crouched low, her legs shaking from the exertion. She must’ve already been out in the park for at least an hour, and she was feeling it everywhere. Didn’t matter. Pain was part of the process, and she welcomed it with open arms. Punching and kicking and maneuvering around the bag every day helped Zuberi deal with whatever she needed to deal with before she could be a “regular person,” as Vriana liked to put it.
On the next punch, she connected with a sharp corner of the bag. Bright pain zinged up her arm and she stepped back. It was then that she heard a voice, a whisper.
Zuberi’s head whipped around as she sought the source. She didn’t expect to be in the park alone—many people used it for recreation and, in some cases, a home. But this early, it was usually quiet. Zuberi swiped at her brow before catching sight of something stirring in the brush across from her.
“Someone there?” she called out, flexing her fingers. More stirring. Zuberi swore she heard a sort of gasping sound, followed by a cough.
She bit her lip. It was impossible not to hear her dad’s voice in her head, telling her that this could be a trap and to run away—now. As the head of his own security company, he knew every trick and scam in the book. The city was rife with desperate people, and desperation made people dangerous.
But Zuberi also knew that if some mugger was hiding in the brush, they’d picked the wrong girl.
She took a few tentative steps toward the brush. As she got closer, a cool April breeze kicked up, making her shiver. She blinked at the dust stirred up around her, then opened her eyes again.
At first, Zuberi didn’t know what she was seeing. It was like a wisp of air, something both completely there and not, like a spark of electricity zipping over an exposed wire. Here and gone again, more than shadow but not by much. A wisp of a figure, barely discernible in the haze of morning. She blinked again, thinking the morning’s exertion was getting to her.
And that was when the wisp sharpened.
A woman appeared, with long braids over her shoulders and eyes that glowed in the beams of sunlight that fell through the branches of the trees. Her gaze settled on Zuberi, piercing, unforgiving. She wore long robes, her arms crossed. Zuberi felt as if she was being judged, but for what?
The woman’s eyes drifted down, and Zuberi started. There, on the ground, two feet poked out from behind a tree. A woman—the same woman who Zuberi saw clearly floating just above—was passed out, tucked into a hollow in the tree trunk beneath an array of branches that held a school of nu-raves. Her eyes were closed, her head slumped forward. Her skin was tinged purple, drool dribbling down her chin.
Goddess . . .
She knew what she was seeing, even if she’d never seen it so up close before. She knew by the way the woman’s veins swelled on her hands and how her cheeks hung slack that these were the signs of Elevation.
Elevation. Even the drugs that swarmed the city were laced with promises of Up High living. It made Zuberi’s stomach churn, especially now, as the woman in front of her twitched.
But while Elevation explained the woman’s condition, it didn’t explain the figure floating above her. The woman continued to stare down at her in judgment, through and through. That gaze, it reminded Zuberi of her father and her aunties. It reminded her—
Suddenly, the figure was gone. Zuberi squinted, then closed her eyes, then opened them again. The air was clear, empty. She stepped back, crossing her arms and squeezing them tight to her body. She felt dizzy.
She’d pushed herself too hard, clearly. Hallucinations were a problem with dehydration and overexertion. Her father told her so all the time. And when Zuberi looked back up at her empty water bottle, she knew she’d done way too much this morning.
Excerpt copyright © 2022 by 72073 Inc.
Jacket art copyright © 2022 by Adeyemi Adegbesan
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps and Clarence A. Haynes will be released November 8; you can pre-order a copy here.
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