Wildfire has signed a deal for Nigerian magic realist novel Dazzling by Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ, the winner of the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.
Editorial director Ella Gordon acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Lucy Morris at Curtis Brown. The book will be Wildfire’s lead literary fiction launch in spring 2023.
Dazzling draws on Nigerian myth and legend to tell the story of two girls coming of age amidst a clashing of cultures, traditions, classes and religions in Nigeria around the turn of this century. The synopsis explains: "Treasure, who lost everything when her father died, meets a spirit at the market who promises to change her fortunes as long as she does something for him in return. Meanwhile Ozoemena is grappling with the weight of her destiny, never before bestowed on a girl, to become a leopard and protect her people. As the two girls reckon with their burgeoning wildness and the legacy of their fathers’ decisions, Ozoemena’s fellow students start to vanish. Treasure and Ozoemena will face terrible choices, as each asks herself: in a world that always says ‘no’ to women, what must two young girls give up to claim what is theirs?"
Emelụmadụ’s submission was selected from more than 3,000 entries for the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Prize. It was created by the agency as part of its 120th anniversary celebrations, in partnership with Curtis Brown Creative.
Head judge Tracy Chevalier 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, where I felt was in the market, or in Treasure’s rat-ridden shack. Voice, character, descriptions, story – all strong. I would not have guessed this was a first novel; Emelụmadụ seems to have writing naturally in the blood.”
Emelụmadụ commented: “I am thrilled that Dazzling has found a home at Wildfire. Ella and her team had a perfect pitch and understood what I was trying to achieve. I look forward to working with them to bring Dazzling to the world.”
Gordon said: “The narrative in this book is so multi-layered and rich I have made new discoveries with every read. Intricately plotted, endlessly creative and surprising, with world-building that immerses you utterly and complex characters that you come to know intimately, Chịkọdịlị’s debut novel is a masterpiece in the making.”