What readers think of The Shadow King, plus links to write your own review.

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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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 448 pages
    Oct 2020, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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There are currently 25 reader reviews for The Shadow King
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Jane D. (Cincinnati, OH)

The Shadow King - A War Story
The writing in this book is quite beautiful and almost poetic in places but the subject matter was really difficult in its brutality which made it difficult to devour it as I normally would do with a book. I enjoy WWII novels but knew nothing of this conflict in which the women of Ethiopia played such a large part. However, for me the history and the characters were overshadowed by a disturbing darkness and it was sometimes difficult to follow the story line which jumped around a bit. I do feel it was worth the effort to read this and open myself up to learning something totally new.
Sally H. (Geneva, OH)

The Shadow King
I'd give this book 4.5 stars. The layout was a little disjointed at first, as it wasn't always clear when the narrative had gone back in time or whose voice was telling the story. But it didn't take long before I was sucked in and couldn't put the book down. The Shadow King tells a part of the WW2 story that is little known and deserves to be heard. Like all good historical fiction, it is educational while being engaging. The characters, particularly the strong women, will stay with you long after you finish the book and leave you feeling humbled.
Nancy D. (Raleigh, NC)

A Good Book
The Shadow King is my first book by Maaza Mengiste. The conflicts between father and son, wife and husband, master and slave, etc., together with love of country, honor, feminism and family issues are riveting and played out against the backdrop of war. Not knowing much about the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, this history lesson was enlightening. The book is almost mystical weaving symbolism, the importance of one's heritage, visualization and prophecies together flawlessly. Ms. Mengiste's leaves you with beautiful visuals of the land, the people and this historic time. Additionally, the use of "chorus" throughout the book gives you insight into the plot, as well as adding a mythology flare. This is a good book.
Joane wolpin

The shadow king
I couldn’t really get into this book. I felt there was to much emphasis on the war. The characters were not transparent and I could not really see them beyond their surface.
Power Reviewer

As is often the case these days, I found a highly rated book and glowingly reviewed book disappointing. While the language is poetic, the plot and the characters leave much to be desired. If I hadn't agreed to read it for a book discussion, I wouldn't have finished it. Sigh.

An interesting and compelling read. The writing was very good in some sections and faltered in others. I think the characters needed a bit more development, however, all in all this was a decent book.
Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)

Plodding Story of Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
It helps to have some prior historical background of Ethiopia falling to Mussolini's Italian forces to truly appreciate the story of The Shadow King and his female bodyguard fighters. The author's lyrically written novel proved more of an obstacle to the narrative than enhancing the story of the brave Ethiopians who fought and stood their ground to defend their country. I finished reading this book with some effort and I feel as if I missed something critical to the overall story.
Patty S. (Towson, MD)

An interesting read
Before reading The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste, I had no idea that Italy invaded Ethiopia as a lead-up to World War II. And that women were an important part of defending Ethiopia made reading the book all the more interesting to me. Mengiste's prose is beautiful. I must admit that I had a hard time following the characters throughout the first third of the book, but they fell into place once the war began. It took a while to get used to the way she weaved timelines and stories. If I were to summarize it with one line, it would be, "Who remembers what it means to be more than what this world believes of us?" A powerful statement from a powerful book.

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