This review is spoiler free.
Our beloved Wakandan princess is back in a brand new story from bestselling author Nic Stone. Shuri: A Black Panther Novel gives the popular Black Panther character the spotlight she deserves, in a way that any Marvel fan can appreciate. As the title indicates, this new story follows Princess Shuri, a brilliant 13-year-old who sets out on a quest to save Wakanda. After noticing the rapid death of the Heart-Shaped Herb, the plant that gives power to the Black Panther, Shuri leaves her home to find out what’s killing the plants and how she can save them.
For me, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Stone’s greatest strength in her writing is the way she writes her characters. She always includes elements in her books that make her characters compelling and relatable, and Shuri is no different, even with the added sci-fi/fantasy aspects. Stone brings a dynamic Shuri to the table with this book. Right away — as in the first two pages — Stone reintroduces Shuri’s fierceness and drive to protect her homeland, as the prologue teases what’s to come closer to the book’s climax. We see the intelligent, science-oriented side of Shuri, who uses her passion and innovation to her advantage. She is, however, still a teenager, and her childlike tendencies also break through every now again, reminding us that even our hero is not without her flaws. But despite her weaknesses, Shuri is able to step into her duties as a princess because of her knowledge and love of science and Wakanda.
Along with creating a more in-depth profile of Shuri, Stone also delves into the role of women in Wakanda. One of the most prominent ways she does this is in the relationship between Shuri and her mother, the queen. Her mother, though a strong and important woman, holds more stereotypical views (not extreme ones, mind) about how Shuri should behave, leading to an often frustrated Shuri who just wants to hide in her lab and create the next greatest invention. Their slightly tense relationship also shapes the way Shuri views her brother, T’Challa, and how they interact with one another. Next are the Dora Milaje, the fierce warrior women of Wakanda, and the role the characters Nakia and Okoye hold. They serve as protectors to the royal family and Wakanda and are more aligned with Shuri’s idea of the strong and powerful woman. Stone’s exploration of the topic is not quite as overt as usual, but she does write about it in a way that remains in the back of your mind, which will lead you to question it along with Shuri every time the subject is mentioned.
I was also intrigued by how Stone explored other nations’ attitudes towards Wakanda and Shuri’s subsequent reaction. For as long as Shuri can remember, Wakanda has been a fairly secretive nation, with its citizens taking several high-tech steps to protect themselves and their resources from outsiders. It’s not until she journeys beyond her homeland that she realizes how Wakanda ostracizes itself and begins to understand T’Challa’s reasoning for deciding to reveal a little more of the country’s secrets. Initially, I didn’t think Wakanda’s seclusion was of much consequence. I was wrong. Wakanda’s separation from its neighbors becomes much more important in the grand scheme, and I was fascinated with how Stone tied it in. It adds another layer of intrigue to Wakanda and the story in general.
Overall, Shuri is a fresh and engaging new adventure. While Shuri as we know her from the Black Panther movie is a wonderful role model for black girls of any age, Stone brings her to the age range of her younger readers, allowing Shuri to be more accessible without compromising everything that makes her such a great character. Stone takes readers through a vibrant landscape, introducing a variety of new characters, as well as a few familiar ones. She offers suspense, humor, and plenty of twists to keep you on your toes. You’ll fall for Shuri all over again, and maybe even want to become a scientist yourself (as someone who generally doesn’t care for science in a hands-on type of capacity, I find this to be especially true). Stone also writes a story of perseverance and fighting for what you believe in. This is a story that will empower black girls. There’s no doubt about it: Shuri was placed in wonderfully capable hands.
Shuri: A Black Panther Novel is available to pre-order through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and IndieBound. It officially releases on May 5, 2020. Follow Nic Stone on Instagram and Twitter for updates about Shuri and her other books. You can also read our spotlight on Stone here and our review of her most recent book Clean Getaway here.