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She Would Be King Hardcover – May 30, 2019
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The novel is in two “books” or two parts if you will. The first (titled “The Three”) is a sort of background coming of age story for the three main characters, Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon. It’s tragic but these are superhero kids so it’s also fun and no hardship to read. The second part of the novel (titled “She Would Be King” focused more on the history of Liberia and the repatriation of slaves and the attack on indigenous culture and beliefs. I had assumed that Gbessa was the title character but I felt like she (understandably) became diminished for much of this second part of the novel so that her re-emergence near the end seems a little like “see what love made her do,” which I suppose is more realistic than her being moved by people who were inhuman to her.
For the most part, this reads like a character-driven adventure story set in Liberia’s actual history of becoming a nation. The author makes this story so engaging that afterwards, you’ll want to go study some Liberian history to find out if life (Gbessa), resilience (June Dey) and unseen powers (Norman) prevailed in the end. I personally preferred Book 1 to Book 2 because in my opinion, Book 2 dwelt a lot on building the world of resettled Liberia then in the end rushing over what I felt should have been the real meat of the story i.e. the why and how of the “SHE being king.” I feel like a lot had been building with the three compelling characters throughout the novel and in the end, that potential wasn’t explored and they were sort of just written a rushed (and less creative than the rest of the novel) conclusion. That’s why I’m giving this novel 4 stars out of 5, but this is still an excellent read that I highly recommend.
Through magical realism she describes the resiliency and strength of will that was required for survival.
Although the cruelty of slavers and those who "owned" enslaved individuals is deep and pervasive, the human spirit and will to survive are affirmed.
Top international reviews
The three main characters' aspects of magical realism are perfectly chosen.