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Book Review: Abengoni- First Calling by Charles R. Saunders

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Abengoni First Calling

Source: Blogspot

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Matile Mala, once the most powerful empire in the black continent of Abengoni, is slipping slowly into decadence, and becoming more and more vulnerable to aggression from the nations and tribes it once dominated. In the capital, Khambawe, ancient rituals endure, dominated by dreams and delusions. As Tiyana, who is both priestess and princess, conducts one such ceremony, known as First Calling, the rite is disrupted by the arrival of a half-wrecked ship from Fiadol, a far-distant land across the sea that is almost forgotten by the Matile. Led by a Seer called Kyroun, the pale-skinned people on the ship seek refuge among the Matile.

But the Matile themselves are in need of aid, as they soon come under attack from their ancient enemies, the Uloans, who have flourished while the Matile waned. Along with her father – the High Priest Gebrem –Tiyana marshals the waning forces of Matile magic in conjunction with the powerful new sorcery wielded by Kyroun and his followers in an effort to forestall the threat of imminent annihilation.

As the Matile and Uloans clash, other foes of the fading empire wait on the sidelines, like vultures circling a battlefield. The newcomers from Fiadol hold the balance of destruction – and Tiyana must anticipate which way the scale will tip …

My Review: One of the best aspect of the book is the incredible cast of characters the author has created. They come from different social classes, races, and countries. An important factor is that these characters are inspired by both African and Celtic cultures and myths. Some notable characters include the courageous and dutiful Tiyana, the pious and powerful Kyroun, the hardened and deadly gangs of impoverished tsotsi theives, and the secretive Tokoloshe dwarves.

Besides the characters, the mythology and sword and sorcery is extremely well done. Chapters involving the deities called the Jagasti and the god Almolvaar were thrilling, as were chapters involving the magic power wielded by the Mantile and Fidadol people. While swordplay is also exciting enough to make the reader turn the page, the bloodshed also sobers the reader and makes them pity the characters.

In addition to the characters, mythology, and sword and sorcery, certain plot themes stand out well. Most of the themes are serious and deal with imperialism, classism, vengeance, and xenophobia. Yet happier themes include tolerance, compassion, and reconciliation. These themes breathe life into the characters and plot, entertaining the reader while encouraging them to think about what they are reading.

Overall, this book was a fantastic start to the Abengoni saga. If you love epic sword and sorcery or sword and soul, then read this book.

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Written by Serena Zola

January 8, 2015 at 9:42 PM

Book Review: Griots- Sisters of The Spear (An Anthology)

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Griots: Sisters of The Spear

Source: Blogspot

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Griots: Sisters of the Spear picks up where the ground breaking Griots Anthology leaves off. Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on black women. Just as the Griots Anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of women of color. The griots have returned to sing new songs, and what wonderful songs they are!

My Review: One of the best things about this anthology is the black women characters in the stories. They are  warriors, magic users,  goddesses, queens, and more. They are positive representations that show black women can just as good  as black men or surpass black men in certain ways.

In addition, almost all of the characters juggle multiple roles that add complexity to who they are. Furthermore, personality traits such as kindness, bravery, and resilience make certain characters  very admirable.

Another great aspect of these stories is the magic featured in some of them. Many of the stories are really brought to life because of certain magical creatures or events. For example, one story involves a warrior girl who has a brother who can shape shift into a lion.

Besides the black women and the magic, the pacing of most of these stories is really good. There is action and adventure in many of these stories, so the pacing becomes fast enough that the reader wants to know how the story will end. If they find themselves craving for more, they will find themselves moving on to the next story until they reach the end of the book.

Overall, this is a fantastic anthology. I recommend this book to black women who want to see good representations of themselves in fantasy fiction.

Book Review: Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade

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Once Upon a Time in Afrika

Source: Blogspot

Background Info on Sword and Soul:  Soul and Sword is a genre that incorporates sword and sorcery with the mythology, folklore, and culture of Africa.

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way. Will the warriors band together against this evil?

My Review: One of the book’s strongest assets is its characters. There is an equal amount of strong female and male characters. For instance, Esusekke is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and using bow and arrow. Matching her combat skills is the male character Akin, who has the makings of a leader and a great warrior. Other examples include Akin’s mother Oyabakin  and Akin’s father Geboya, who are wise and skilled fighters in their own right.

Other interesting characters include various creatures in the realm, including witches and wizards, assassins, and half-warriors with either animal or monstrous qualities. These secondary characters brought Onile, the alternate world of Africa, to life. Depending on the character, they either made the story action-packed or humorous.

Besides the characters. the plot is fast-paced and filled with action, adventure, and a little romance. It will hook the reader and make the book hard to put down.

The only flaw in the book is the story’s world. The author did a great job incorporating Yoruba mythology into Onile. However, since the plot is so fast-paced and the story less than two hundred pages, the reader doesn’t have enough time to enjoy Onile. Different areas of the continent are introduced so quickly that the reader may feel disoriented at times.

Overall, this was a great sword and soul book. I recommend it for people getting into the genre for the first time. I also recommend it to black fantasy fiction lovers looking to see themselves in the pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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