A guest post by R.J. Terrell.
About ten years ago I stumbled on a little gem by the name of Zulu Heart. Being a fantasy reader and seeing practically none of it featuring a lead character of African descent, I was instantly intrigued. As it turned out, the book is more alternate history than fantasy, but it was fortunate for me that the book was placed in the wrong section.
After reading the book, I discovered that it was the follow up to a book called Lion’s Blood, so I had to go back and read them in order.
Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart are a ‘duology’ (though not officially named as such) that take place in 1850 AD in a world where power rested in the hands of Islamic Africa as opposed to Europe. Lion’s Blood begins the story of two boys, one the son of a wealthy African family, and the other, a Druidic Irish slave.
Because of his family’s controversial views of slaves being equals, the African boy named Kai and the Irish boy named Aiden become friends in a world of slavery, strife, prejudice and racism. It is in every way a story of friendship and loyalty that transcends the confines of the evil shade of humanity.
Set in America where war is threatened as Aztecs, Zulus, Moors, and Europeans clash, we see a different history that is in so many ways the same.
In Zulu Heart, Aiden has convinced his friend, Kai, to push for the freedom of his family. In the years since, enslaved Europeans have carved a life for themselves only to face the threat of re-enslavement while Kai is entangled in political intrigue between the lords of Egypt and Abyssinia.
These two books feature a lush and very real world with an alternate history that is very believable and very well done. I found it especially interesting how a certain real heroic historical figure appeared in Zulu Heart as the opposite of whom he was known to be. Steven Barnes did a class act job with these two books and they deserve far more notoriety than they’ve received.
I must recommend this excellent series. Steven Barnes tackled a tough and severely uncomfortable subject, and did a brilliant job of showing how love, friendship, loyalty, and honor can transcend and ultimately overcome the darkest aspects of humanity. The books are very well done, and once they get moving, are gripping, immersive and quite enjoyable.
R. J. Terrell was instantly a lover of fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. When not writing, he enjoys reading, videogames, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.Connect with him at: