Archive for the ‘Sword and Soul’ Tag

Meji, a Sword & Sorcery Adventure in Africa   Leave a comment

 

Meji

In Meji, Book One, the epic adventure story of two brother begins.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

Meji, by Milton J. Davis, is a powerful novel packed with human drama and pulse-pounding action that vividly recreates the glorious kingdoms of long-ago Africa. It is heartbreaking that the book, available at MVmedia, hasn’t received the attention it deserves, and that most African-Americans have never heard of it, because it’s on a par with many Pulitzer-prize-winning novels such as The Color Purple.

The saga begins at a moment of high drama when the Great Wife of the king of the Sesu people struggles to give birth. Her twin sons survive, but in their society, twins are considered an abominations — and must die. From the first scene in which the boys’ father bargains for their lives with the chief shaman, the drama steadily intensifies, the conflicts mount, the stakes keep rising, page after page and chapter after chapter. Separated soon after birth, the “cursed” twins Ndoro and Obaseki are raised in radically different civilizations and bound for very different destinies, one to become a legendary warrior, the other a powerful sorcerer.

Interwoven with this main story line are subplots involving characters from several kingdoms with distinct cultures: mighty warriors, noble kings, medicine priests, queens who, through craftiness and seduction, are the powers behind the throne. Like Game of Thrones, the point of view shifts between characters from chapter to chapter. As in that popular series, court intrigue figures prominently as dynasties wrestle for dominance. There’s as much backstabbing as there are exciting battles.

 

milton

Author Milton J. Davis

The story takes place on the continent of “Uhuru” and the kingdoms are fictitious. But the world is clearly the product of years of research into every aspect of African culture in late medieval times — the political systems, the religious beliefs, the trade, the weapons, the clothing. The author’s sure-footed descriptions of these things always ring true. Yet one never feels overwhelmed by detail. There isn’t a wasted word or wasted scene, no fat, just all lean muscle. The pace is fast, often exhilarating.

 

In one riveting sequence, young Nboro accompanies the veteran warrior Shange on a cattle raid. As I read, it struck me that this was as realistic, well-told and moving as the soldiers’ trek in Norman Mailer’s classic war novel The Naked and the Dead. But unlike Mailer, who served in World War II, Davis never experienced a cattle raid, nor could he have dug up all the needed details in any book. The scenes are written with the authority of someone who has immersed himself so thoroughly in research that he can extrapolate from it to build an entirely believable world.

One critical ingredient of great fiction is that the heroes are flawed and the antagonists are fully realized humans, not flat stereotypical villains. That’s the case there. One key character betrays his king and family, but in the chapter that leads up to that fateful decision, sympathy is built up for the character and we fully understand his actions.

Davis’s writing style lives up to his storytelling and the dialogue is highly memorable. Each character has a distinct voice.

“I am no demon,” Ndoro tells Shange at one point. To which the warrior responds, “That is the thing about demons. A Sesu does not know if he has one inside him. I think all men do. It is what makes us brave and gives us strength.”

I was delighted to hear that the book will be soon be-released in a single volume with Meji, Book Two in a single volume. Hopefully this time at bat, the book will get the attention it merits.

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In “Changa’s Safari” an African Sinbad Battles Sorcerers and Demons.   1 comment

changa-better_edited-1

By C. Michael Forsyth

Reading Changa’s Safari, a thrilling and original adventure introducing an instantly iconic hero, was one of the most satisfying literary experiences of my life. It’s as if Milton J. Davis reached into my mind, found elements I’ve always loved and expertly assembled them, the way a parent might weave all their child’s favorite things into a bedtime story.

Given that the glory of medieval Africa was its vast and sophisticated trading system, I’ve long thought an African Sinbad would make an interesting character — and here he is: the swashbuckling merchant Changa, who survives on both his cunning and brawn. I grew up on those Ray Harryhausen movies like The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and this book recaptures that magic and mystery, as the seafaring Changa ventures onto mysterious islands, slashes his way through jungles and battles monsters, demons and sorcerers. The novel is broken into three grand outings. In the first, he and his intrepid crew set forth on a quest for a powerful talisman called the Jade Obelisk – which, in the wrong hands can destroy the world. In another, to return an emperor to his throne, Changa journeys to the Great Wall of China.

I’m a huge fan of the Conan books and Changa’s Safari — a brilliant example of what’s been dubbed the “sword and soul” genre — has echoes of Robert Howard’s cosmology. The hero finds himself at odds with sinister, ancient entities that lurk on the edges of our world, aching to regain power.

Davis clearly invested many years researching Africa and it pays off in believability. The setting is not some fantasy land cobbled together from a couple of Internet articles and wishful thinking, but real places such as Zimbabwe and the port city of Sofala, reconstructed as they must have been, with loving attention to detail. Medieval African merchants really did do business as far away as East Asia. As a student of African history who is eager to see representations of the continent that do justice to its advanced civilizations, I’m ecstatic to find a book that satisfies that thirst.

Whether on land or sea, the action scenes are vividly described and well-choreographed. The weapons used and the military tactics all are genuine. The supporting cast including Changa’s sorceress aide and love interest Panya, help to round out the story and bring out the hero’s compassionate side. While he hungers for gold, he cares for his friends more.

I have to admit, I’m a bit envious of Davis. My own sword and soul novel The Blood of Titans contains loads of details about African societies culled from stacks of books, but I ended up borrowing from various cultures as needed to create a mythological kingdom. In retrospect, I wish I’d set the story in a specific time and place, as Davis does. My book also includes a wily warrior-merchant, the caravan master Kamau, as a secondary hero — but frankly, I kind of like Changa better!

Trouble is now I’m getting greedy. I want to read the next Changa book and the next. I want to feast my eyes on a graphic novel version and a feature film. And I can see in my head a TV show akin to Xena, Warrior Princess, following the adventures of the hero and his intrepid crew!

 

Blood of Titans cover as printed better_edited-1

The Blood of Titans is a story of love and adventure set in the golden age of Africa.

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