BookBrowse Reviews The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

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The Shadow King

A Novel

by Maaza Mengiste

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste X
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2020, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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A striking account of women soldiers who defended Ethiopia during the Italian invasion in the 1930s, The Shadow King uses its historical setting to explore deeper issues of humanity and existence.

While reading The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, I was reminded of the David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest. On the surface, this may seem like a far-fetched and even absurd comparison — The Shadow King is a fictional account of the role of female soldiers in the 1930s Italian invasion of Ethiopia, while Infinite Jest is a tragicomic experimental novel revolving around a mixture of plot lines in a near-future (as imagined from the 1990s) North America. Still, similarities between the two exist.

Early in Mengiste's novel, Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor, is sitting in his office as his country teeters on the brink of war with Italy. Sweating under the pressure of decisions that await him in the conflict ahead, he has decided to immerse himself in newsreels, ostensibly to prep himself with knowledge, but really as an escape from the leadership required of him. This ...

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