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She Would Be King: A Novel Paperback – September 3, 2019

4.4 out of 5 stars 228 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“Moore skillfully reconsiders the idealism of the early African-American settlers through their interactions with the indigenous peoples and braids together intimate story lines centered around universal themes: falling in love, defying familial expectations and the difficulties of doing the right thing.”The New York Times

“[A] bold de´but. . . . The force and the symbolism of myth pervade Moore’s engrossing tale.”―The New Yorker

“Reading Wayétu Moore’s debut novel, She Would Be King, feels a lot like watching a superb athlete’s performance. . . . Moore makes deft use of magical realism, and her plot and its details are compelling. . . . Like her remarkable protagonist Gbessa, the author has tapped into her own backstory–and emerged with literary superpowers.”TIME

“This compelling debut novel by Wayétu Moore blends historical fiction with magical realism in an exhilarating tale of the formation of Liberia. Moore effortlessly weaves the threads of indigenous West African tribes, American and Caribbean slavery, and British colonialism together to tell the creation story of a new nation, complete with unforgettable characters and a dynamic voice.”Marie Claire

“Hotly anticipated. . . . A breathtaking retelling of the founding of Liberia. . . . Wayétu Moore’s magical realism can make anyone believe in how connected humans are to the world around them.”Glamour

“Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be intrigued by this debut novel, a reimagining of Liberia’s infancy in the 19th century.”Harper’s Bazaar

“In She Would Be King, debut novelist Wayétu Moore reimagines Liberia’s past, building a world so clear and evocative you would swear you were in it.”BuzzFeed

“Moore’s debut unflinchingly depicts the convergence of brutal forces―colonialism, the slave trade―while brushing it with a glimmer of magic.”HuffPost

“Moore’s style is wholly unique, weaving in the myths and legends of her childhood, and lends itself to an immersive, magical portrayal of Liberia beyond its identity as a haven for emancipated African Americans.”Salon

“Moore's vivid characters, beguiling language and powerful subject matter engage us thoroughly. The book is unforgettable.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“Moore veers from fantasy to lush descriptions and sharp characterization, shedding light on the fleeting moment when the vast African diaspora reversed itself.”Vulture

“Stunning. . . . It is an epic narrative, weaving together themes of diasporic conflict, the legacy of bondage, isolation, and community, and it offers a transcendent, important look at the ways in which the past is never fully behind us, and instead echoes throughout everything we do.”NYLON

“Moore skillfully blends historical fiction with magical realism in this immersive interpretation of Liberia’s roots.”BUST

“This dynamic novel leaves you both satisfied and full of anticipation for what’s to come, in fiction and in reality.”The Rumpus

“Moore’s debut is magnetic.”Santa Fe New Mexican

“Women everywhere will find themselves admiring the powerful Gbessa in She Would Be King.”PopSugar

“Moore’s insightful, emotional descriptions graft these stories right onto readers’ hearts .”BookPage

“Composed and compelling, brimming with devastating truths and sparkling with ferocity, this is a masterpiece of a debut.”―

“The dialog is fluid and poetic, allowing readers to imagine the events, sights, smells, feelings, and sensations. As with Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, this work will appeal to lovers of African, African American, and literary fiction.”Library Journal, starred review

“Moore uses an accomplished, penetrating style―with clever swerves into fantasy―to build effective critiques of tribal misogyny, colonial abuse, and racism.”Publishers Weekly

“An ambitious, genre-hopping, continent-spanning novel. . . . Moore is a brisk and skilled storyteller who weaves her protagonists' disparate stories together with aplomb yet is also able to render her sprawling cast of characters in ways that feel psychologically compelling. In addition, the novel's various settings―Virginia, Jamaica, and West Africa―are depicted so lushly that readers will find themselves enchanted.”Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Wayétu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book and is a graduate of Howard University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California. She teaches at the City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Graywolf Press; Reprint edition (September 3, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 312 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1644450011
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1644450017
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.41 x 0.89 x 8.34 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 228 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
228 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2018
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Top reviews from other countries

Bredon House
2.0 out of 5 stars Okayish but peters out rapidly
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 15, 2019
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Rachel M
5.0 out of 5 stars African Literary Journey
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 10, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect condition.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 9, 2021
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Fareha Jamal
4.0 out of 5 stars BOOK RECOMMENDATION
Reviewed in Germany on August 27, 2020
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4.0 out of 5 stars BOOK RECOMMENDATION
Reviewed in Germany on August 27, 2020
🌟 The book was an ultimate reminder of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Where TUR was heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and phenomenal for its unerring portrayal of the subject, She Would Be King takes you into a magical, mystical world of superheroes, spirits, and ravaging illegal slavers. Moore’s narration of the characters was articulate. Her depiction of the emancipation of Libera from perennial slavery is a tale that is going to engrave forever in your hearts.
🌟 Whenever I am writing a synopsis, my utmost concern has always been about not giving away the story. So, I am going to be very precise. The story takes you into the journey of three strangers with supernatural powers. Gbess the immortal, Norman the invisible, June the invincible. In a land, where children are whipped, men are encumbered and women are forcibly violated, Moore’s introduction of mythical powers is a way to restore justice, making the novel intriguing despite the melancholic subject.
🌟 She Would Be King offers considerable insight into the history of black slavery through its magical realism. Mainly, about Liberia, which was finally recognized as the African Republic during the American Civil War. It came into being as a settlement of the American Colonization Society. But even then, they were attacked, looted and plundered, by the French or British, living in the constant fear of death and destruction. The country declared its independence during the Civil War, this was when Abraham Lincoln became the President of the United States and endeavored to abolish slavery. The US was divided between the Union Loyalist and the Confederate States. War broke when the Confederacy rebelled as their economy was heavily dependent on cotton agriculture and a plantation system that relied upon African-American slave labor.
🌟 There is much more to the story than it meets the eye. After the freedom, the tribes are at war with each other, the freed slaves followed the same cultural snobbery, with their farms and mansions, they have become self-proclaimed masters to the indigenous groups of villages. For sure a book recommendation! ♥️
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5.0 out of 5 stars perfect characters
Reviewed in Germany on February 16, 2020
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