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Publisher's Summary

"A brilliant novel, lyrically lifting history towards myth. It's also compulsively readable. I devoured it in two days." (Salman Rushdie)

In 1935, orphaned servant Hirut struggles to adapt to her new household as Ethiopia faces Mussolini's looming invasion. As the battles begin in earnest, Hirut and other women must care for the wounded. But when Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia is about to lose hope, Hirut helps to disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor to keep the fight alive. She becomes his guard, inspiring women to join the war against fascism. 

In this extraordinary, beautifully told epic, Hirut overcomes rape, violence, and imprisonment, finding the strength to fight for her country's freedom and her own. Maaza Mengiste breathes life into complicated characters on both sides of the battle line, shaping a searing story of ordinary women and the advanced army they courageously opposed. Set against the first real conflict of World War II, The Shadow King is a heartrending, indelible exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.

©2019 Maaza Mengiste (P)2019 Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Shadow King

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Not quite what I expected

Reviews that I’ve read of this book are accurate in their communication of its excellent literary qualities, and the basics of its plot. What none of them addressed was the role played by rape in the book. The rape and sexual assault of girls and women, and the threat of rape and sexual assault of girls and women, were a nearly constant presence. Rape functioned to shape and reveal character, to move the plot, and as an allegory of colonial violence. It was exhausting. Given how prevalent rape is in war (and peace), I am not complaining about its inclusion here (and I was very glad that the author handled it without a hint of salaciousness), but am shocked that it has been left out of the larger conversation about this book—treated as background, somehow not worth mentioning. I thought I’d mention it. This is a beautiful book, exploring a fascinating history, but often difficult—especially for readers for whom rape and sexual assault are not merely symbolic.

24 people found this helpful

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Too long AND it stopped playing after chapter 50

First, the premise is good and one does learn about Ethiopia and its war with Italy. The author has a certain lyrical way with words that is pleasing. However, there are far too many of them. Words that is. It really dragged. Most annoying of all is that it just stopped playing at chapter 50 and even though I tried to fast forward and back and reload the book, nothing worked. Very, very annoying. Am going to ask for my $ back.

3 people found this helpful

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Tried to get through, but couldn’t

The story was way to slow and the characters not like able or easy to follow. And I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. It returned this book after only listening to 6 chapters.

3 people found this helpful

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Narration accents were awful!

Narration was very, very disappointing. The ethiopian accents were extremely off-base. Audible should be finding authentic voices to read books like this. You’ve done a disservice to an incredibly powerful and beautiful text.

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing

Loved every second, inspiring and touching story of the women soldiers during the Ethiopia war.

1 person found this helpful

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Overwhelming melodrama

The writing is so melodramatic that it's difficult to follow the story, and much of it simply doesn't make sense. The author seems to think she's an Ethopian Homer and it just doesn't measure up. I really wanted to get something useful out of this book, but I just couldn't. And the reader was a close second in melodrama - yuck!