We can cordially recommend this book to all who care for stories of battle, murder, and sudden death. Mr. Mitford, who has already made his mark, handles these South Africansubjects with a masterful hand. The account of theattack by Zulus on the Basutu kraals is a splendid bit ofwriting. There is no question as to the interest of thestory or the ability with which it is written."-- Vanity Fair.
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The King's Assegai based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
H. Rider Haggard in many of his African novels, especially in his Allan Quatermain stories and in NADA THE LILY (1892) conveys a sense of the Zulu empire in the early 1800s. Many readers and critics today may harp on perceived "PC" indiscretions, but that is hardly fair, as Haggard's works need to be viewed in the light and lens of the Victorian era when most of his stories were composed. Also his fiction was written in an era of the British Empire in transition, and there was much political passion both pro and con on the subject in the air at the time. Beyond that, Haggard was about as fair minded as a Victorian male could be at that time. One cannot in all fairness call him racist or sexist or imperialist. He was an entertainer who. like Arthur Conan Doyle, often also tried to present the sense of places far off in time and space. NADA THE LILY was notable because Haggard tried to recreate the rise and fall of the Zulu Empire completely from the point of view of a Zulu warrior--without a single European character in the main narrative. Today, though generally not well known, NADA THE LILY, is nevertheless thought of by romance aficionados as one of the few fictional forays (if not the only one) into the life and times of Shaka Zulu. UNTIL NOW! Scholar and academic Gerald Monsman, whose specialty is 19th Century British and Anglo-African literature has brought to light the works of Bertram Mitford, a highly successful and popular adventure story writer who was contemporaneous with Haggard. While it is true that, despite a flurry of public domain publishing, Haggard has been known mainly for two of his nearly 60 books (KING SOLOMON'S MINES and SHE) and therefore remembered to some degree, Mitford's novels have been totally out-of-print and his name utterly forgotten for a century. Monsman has unearthed several of Mitford's works--but this one, THE KING'S ASSEGAI (1894), proves that Haggard was not the only British author who could bring to life the Zulu Empire. THE KING'S ASSEGAI is the story of a parallel Zulu nation under the leadership of King Umzilikazi and tells of the intense trials of a young and passionate warrior who lives in the shadow of Shaka's rival. THE KING'S ASSEGAI is an unexpected and wonderful evocation of the Zulu Empire on a par with NADA THE LILY. I've just finished the book and found it satisfactory in every way. Especially exciting, it is the first of a tetralogy--the other three being THE WHITE SHIELD, THE INDUNA'S WIFE, and THE WORD OF THE SORCERESS. I highly recommend this classic! And I am grateful to Gerald Monsman, who brought THE KING'S ASSEGAI back into print. Monsman also provides an insightful introduction and appendix that puts Mitford and his works into historical perspective. Mitford, like Haggard, lived in Africa and was able to give his African fiction a verisimilitude that is wonderful, in the sense that he evokes wonder as he brings to life a vanished civilization using the traditions and oral history that were, even as he wrote, fast fading following the conquest and dismantling of the Zulu Empire by the British Empire in the seventh and eighth decades of the nineteenth century.