Excerpt from Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Zulu Heart

By Steven Barnes

Zulu Heart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2003,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2004,
    660 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One
Songhai Islands, south of New Djibouti
8 Ramadan a.h. 1294
(Sunday, September 16, 1877)

The day had been glorious. The southern sun gilded the sparse clouds as they frolicked in a fair wind. It was a time of slow delicious sweltering. Now, at last, the day drew to a close. The past seventy-two hours had provided recreation and renewal for the family of Bilalistan's youngest Wakil, Kai of Dar Kush. For those precious hours, duty no longer deviled him.

For now, Kai could release the tension from body and mind, allowing both to dwell only in the fathomless crystal blue of the waters, hands and spirit stretching out for the rainbow of tropical fish fluttering just beyond reach.

He dove deep, suspended as if by the hand of an invisible djinn, hovering above the twisted wreck of a triple-master that had foundered fifty years before his birth. That there was another ship, far more recently scuttled, in the waters east of the islands, he knew too well. The sight of this wreck sobered rather than enthralled. It reminded him of the carnage that his father's gold had, if not wrought, endorsed after the fact.

The sailors' bones scattered in its shattered hull were not the first, nor would they be the last to drift in the depths of the Songhai. The deceptive tranquility of these islands had concealed fierce and deadly battle as the nations of Africa contested for the New World.

Mali had been first to touch Bilalistan's shores, her ships piloted by captains and navigators refused by Abyssinia's royal court. But that kingdom's Immortal Empress had swiftly grasped the potential of the storied land far to the west, and had claimed ownership. Egypt likewise had sent ships and men, as had half a dozen other peoples. Bitterly they fought. As kingdoms rose and fell in the Old World, so did they in the New.

The derelict's barnacled ribs shimmered in twenty cubits of crystalline water, not some heroic singularity but merely another of the rivened husks scattered about the sea bottom like broken birds' nests, once the proud carriages of the bravest sailors the world had ever known. Whether their destroyers' vessels had flown the flags of their origin or slunk through the islands like sharks in the starlight, death had been the same, the watery graves the same, the end the same: northern Bilalistan belonged to Egypt and Abyssinia alone.

Kai resented the fact that such thoughts had interrupted his swim. This was a time for pleasure, not politics. So despite these waters' grim history, or the urgency of a mission he dared not share even with his beloved wife, he paddled about like a boy half his age, reveling in the sun and surf.

Kai of Dar Kush had known war, and loss, and twenty-three summers. He was a tall man, so perfectly proportioned that, in repose, he seemed smaller than his actual height. Beardless and smooth-skinned was Kai, of almost weightless carriage, as easily underestimated as a sleeping cobra.

A solid shadow glided beneath him, roiling the water with its passage. Kai blinked his eyes to clarity, bringing into focus the dolphin's every gray-black digit. Its five cubits of muscle could have shattered him with a flick if it chose, but the creature seemed more inclined merely to float and study him.

On other days the islands' watery denizens had seemed more playful, carving watery loops and curlicues, inviting him to follow if he could. Today the dolphin seemed merely to examine him. Its flat black eyes brimmed with a questioning intelligence. Close behind it, a second, smaller dolphin kept pace.

Trailing bubbles, Kai paddled back up to the surface, where his dhow Baher Feras, the "Sea Horse," awaited. Its swooping teak hull bobbed gently on the waves, lateen sails billowing in the afternoon's warm, moist breeze.

  • 1
  • 2

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Barnes

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

Signed Copies! "Exciting & emotionally engaging. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.