The Hero of Numbani is the first novel based on the popular sci-fi video game, Overwatch. The book tells the adventures of Efi, a child robotics genius in Numbani, a fictitious city in Nigeria, as she works to make her city a better, safer place where artificially intelligent robots coexist with humans.
Efi and her friends are charming protagonists who have the best interests of each other and their neighbors at heart. Their courage and willingness to help others is inspiring. Each of them brings a unique set of talents to the table, and the author illustrates the value of intelligence, creativity, and even artistic ability as tools to fight for justice. The characterization in the book is rich, and even some of the robots have personalities that are close to human. The only place where the character development falls flat is the antagonists. The primary villain is one-dimensional and is evil in a vague, undefined generally bad way, and his henchmen are little more than faceless goons.
The book will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Overwatch, as it provides backstory for a major hero in that game, a hero about which little was known prior to this book. The novel also contains many tidbits that fans will find familiar. However, the book is lacking in the action and dramatic storytelling that are present in the game, comics, and related media. By comparison, this story is lackluster.
Readers who are not familiar with the Overwatch universe may struggle to make sense of some aspects of this book. The author relies heavily on the reader having some prior knowledge of the Overwatch setting and characters. For example, descriptions of some major characters are cursory or nonexistent, leaving the reader to figure out what they look like or fill in details that are missing. Also, specific technologies and abilities in the video game are used in the book and mentioned by name with no description of what they are, which may mean some readers who aren’t familiar with the game end up grasping to make sense of what is going on.
This novel has heroic characters, and their culture is richly detailed. The description of the setting is immersive and beautiful, and the story has its comedic and endearing moments. However, the exciting setting serves as a backdrop for a story that is lacking in the adventure that fans of the franchise will expect and that moves too slowly to entertain the young audience which is its target.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic
Violence/Gore: A few verbal threats; report of a teen beaten by a gang; a few mentions of a previous war; report of terrorist attacks; report of a past assassination; a character is mildly poisoned by another; a few fights involving humans and robots with guns, melee weapons, and high-tech weaponry that result in property destruction, robots destroyed and/or people injured; a building is bombed with injuries; a few instances of vandalism and minor property damage.
Sex/Nudity: Preteens hold hands.
Mature Subject Matter:
Class discrimination; terrorism; PTSD (character has brief reaction to past trauma); theft; black market arms dealing; computer hacking.
Alcohol / Drug Use: