The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Staff Pick

Maaza Mengiste, born in Ethiopia, made a memorable literary debut with Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, which won an NAACP Image Award and was named one of the Guardian's Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her highly anticipated second novel, The Shadow King (W.W. Norton, $26.95), is set in mid-1930s Ethiopia, where Mengiste reimagines Mussolini’s invasion from the perspectives of a sadistic Italian colonel, a Jewish Venetian photographer, and, most prominently, Hirut, an orphaned servant girl working for a wealthy family. A compelling and richly drawn character, Hirut is not content to watch history unfold but turns her considerable intelligence and resourcefulness to taking an active role in events, first by nursing the wounded, then by joining Hailie Selassie’s formidable force of female warriors. In a stroke brilliantly her own, she bolsters flagging hope among her compatriots by disguising a peasant as Haile Selassie when the emperor goes into exile. Facing rape and imprisonment, Hirut not only survives but inspires other women to actively resist the forces that threaten their homeland. Whether describing battlefi elds, domestic life, or interpersonal relationships, Mengiste’s cinematic prose evokes the full sensory experience of the time and place.

The Shadow King: A Novel By Maaza Mengiste Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393083569
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 24th, 2019