Set in Ethiopia at the very start of WWII, The Shadow King tells the story of orphaned Hirut, who struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her employer, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade.
As the war begins in earnest, Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When the Emperor 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.
Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist. Her latest novel, The Shadow King has been called “a brilliant novel…compulsively readable” by Salman Rushdie. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and named one of the best books of 2010 by Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and other publications. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Creative Capital. Her work can be found in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The Guardian, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and BBC, among other places. Maaza’s fiction and nonfiction examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of photography, memory, and violence. She was a writer on the documentary projects, GIRL RISING and THE INVISIBLE CITY: KAKUMA.
You can browse a complete list of her other writings on her website.