Debut author Chikọdili Emelumadu has won the £3,000 Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.
Emelumadu’s novel Dazzling beat out competition from more than 3,000 entires from across the UK and Ireland, winning her an offer of representation from Curtis Brown and £3,000.
Head judge and bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, who selected the overall winner and runner-up from the final shortlist, said: "I was bewitched by this story of Treasure, a young girl who has lost her father and is taken in by a spirit – intertwined with Ozoemena, another girl who becomes part of a Nigerian Leopard Society whose members are normally men. The premise is intriguing, the writing confident. I particularly loved the evocative descriptions … I would not have guessed this was a first novel; Emelumadu seems to have writing naturally in the blood."
The runner-up, who also receives an offer of representation from Curtis Brown, is Lucy Barker for The Wickedry of Mrs Wood, a historical novel about the rivalry between two mediums in Victorian London. A third entry, Debra Hills’ Monkeyflower, which follows a family in 1970s South Shields, is awarded a special commendation prize from Curtis Brown Creative: a place on a three-month novel-writing course.
The four further titles on the shortlist, each of which win a mentoring session with a Curtis Brown agent and a place on a six-week online course from Curtis Brown Creative, are: Blessed Joan by Dawn Beresford, ZN by Darren J Coles, #Beauisfine by Heather Cripps and The Three Sisters Below Strang Wood by Carrie Nelson.
In a statement, the judges said: "We were blown away by the standard of entries, but Chikọdili Emelumadu’s Dazzling was a clear winner. We launched this Prize with the aim of finding and developing raw talent, and we feel hugely privileged to have read what for many of our entrants was the first 10,000 words they have ever committed to paper. This has been an exciting and energising process and we are sure that this will be the start of many brilliant careers."
The award was launched earlier this year with mission to find the voices of the future, in partnership with the Curtis Brown Creative writing school as part of Curtis Brown’s 120th anniversary celebrations.