Summary and book reviews of Lion's Blood by Steven Barnes

Lion's Blood

A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alterative America

By Steven Barnes

Lion's Blood
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2002,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2003,
    608 pages.

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Book Summary

From visionary writer Steven Barnes comes an astonishing, compelling alternate history of a world where North Africans conquered Rome and black men settled the Americas...

Lion's Blood

In ancient times, Socrates fled Athens for the courts of Egypt, setting in motion events that led to Carthage destroying Rome. A millennium later, by the grace of Allah, Muhammad received the Qur'an. And the Prophet's apostle Bilal was granted a vision that Islam's destiny lay far across the western ocean, in a New World...

One of the nation's premier African-American science fiction writers, multiple-award nominee Steven Barnes here presents a passionate and richly imagined epic of courage, survival, and revelation on a slave plantation in the old South...the African-ruled South.

The year is 1279...or, to those who worship the son of Mary, 1863. Bordered by fierce Azteca to the south, the red men's nations of the far west, and the Viking empire in the north, Bilalistan is a vast, rich land adorned with inspiring mosques, Zulu kraals, and glorious Moorish castles. Its grand estates are worked by savage Franks and Gauls captured from darkest Europe.

A primitive child from Eire, little Aidan O'Dere knows nothing of the world on the day his village is raided. His father is murdered while Aidan, his mother, and his sister are chained in the dark, diseased hold of a slave ship bound for the New World of Bilalistan. There the boy is sold to Dar Kush, the estate of the Wakil Abu Ali.

The Wakil is notorious for his lenient handling of his whites, even letting them keep their tribal names and pagan beliefs. And when Aidan becomes personal servant to the Wakil's mischievous yet brilliant younger son, Kai, friendship is allowed to blossom between the two youths—a bond that seems to eclipse their status as master and slave. But the tranquillity of Dar Kush hides a world where slave families are torn apart to pay bets, whipping and rape are daily fare, and runaways are slaughtered by vicious animals. And behind their happy comportment, the whites are seething with hatred.

When war suddenly sweeps over the entire continent, the Aztecs, Zulus, Arabs, and whites are engulfed in carnage. And in the terrible darkness of the battlefield, Kai and Aidan will learn that blood is neither black nor white...

15 Shawwal 1279 Higira
(April 4, 1863 Anno Domini)

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the Prophets.

Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourselves.

SPRING'S FIRST DAY WAS A WARM SWEET SONG, a time of companionable silences and comfortably shared labor in Mahon O'Dere's coracle. The boat's round woven sides bobbed gently in the Lady's arms. Aidan O'Dere, eleven years old and the crannog's best swimmer, leaned against the coracle's side, reveling in the river's timeless flow. He studied the dark darting shadows of the fish as if they held the secrets of the universe, his mind alternately racing and utterly still.

Just now, his thoughts were of his father, Mahon, a lean, strong man weathered brown by sun and wind. He pulled the nets all...

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

This is a dazzling accomplishment.....Barnes seems destined to be a major player in the field.

Booklist - Roland Green

Barnes builds a world full of convincing details, far beyond a simple reversal of the roles of master and slave. The assumption that Islam would have developed almost exactly as it has without the influence of Christianity and northern European civilization, however, is pushing the limits of plausibility as hard as any alternate-history novel ever has.

Author Blurb Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage
An epic, daring alternate universe novel that is both a page-turning adventure story and a work that raises the stakes for speculative fiction. Barnes's fully imagined universe is complete, intelligent, and compassionate.

Author Blurb Harry Turtledove, author ofAmerican Empire Blood and Iron
Goes to the heart of the human condition, showing that people are people, and chance, not skin color, makes them what and who they are…not to be missed.

Author Blurb Greg Bear, author of The Forge of God
A passionate and compelling story that can teach us all, black and white, the meaning of power and forgiveness.

Author Blurb Robert Silverberg, author of The King of Dreams
History turned upside down—a bold, daring speculation.

Author Blurb David Brin, author of Kiln People
Barnes does what great authors are bound to do—he takes you to another place and shows you that things didn't have to be this way...a gripping and thought-provoking tale.

Author Blurb Octavia E. Butler, author of Parable of the Talents
Imaginative, well-researched, well-written, and devastating.

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