The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste is an intimate portrait of human beings going about their daily lives with tensions and hardships, memories, and love, which broadens out into an epic war narrative. The book hit the shelves in September and has been longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.
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Ethiopia. 1935. With the threat of Mussolini’s Army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an Officer in emperor Haile Selassie’s Army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead.
When emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms. But how could she have predicted her own personal war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers? The shadow king is a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.
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