Labyrinth of Kingdoms

  • by Steve Kemper
  • Narrated by Ed Phillips
  • 14 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A true story that rivals the travels of Burton or Stanley for excitement, and surpasses them in scientific achievements.
In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa.
Yet because of shifting politics, European preconceptions about Africa, and his own thorny personality, Barth has been almost forgotten. The general public has never heard of him, his epic journey, or his still-pertinent observations about Africa and Islam; and his monumental five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is rare even in libraries. Though he made his journey for the British government, he has never had a biography in English. Barth and his achievements have fallen through a crack in history.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


The Tuaregs don't come off very well in this fascinating book. Neither do the Fulanis. It's amazing to me that anyone survived the waring factions and the extreme conditions related in this story. The writing itself is a nice mix of historical fact and personal narrative. It's not to long, and it's quite engaging. I love Barth's against-the-grain perspective that Africa wasn't just a blank slate of a land full of unsophisticated heathens just needing European saviors! He clearly thought well of the peoples as complex intricate kingdoms/civilizations that he was just there to learn about. Unfortunately, he also had the task of negotiating trade relationships with the leaders, but it's almost as though that were an afterthought for him. The narrator is mostly wonderful, particularly at pronunciation of a wide variety of place and person names. But in a few places his voice got a little to strident for my preference. It wasn't enough to be distracting for too long, though.
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- Sarah Broadwell

A journey without maps

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The audio book outlining the travels of Henrich Barth would have been better with maps. If there were no maps in Kemper's book, then the fault is with the author; if there were maps and they were not offered in pdf format, then the fault is with audiobooks.

What was most disappointing about Steve Kemper’s story?

The most disappointing thing about Steve Kemper's story was being made acutely aware of the fighting in Central Africa. Tribal and religious violence, as described in Kemper's tale in the mid-nineteenth century is too much different from what we see on the evening news.

Which character – as performed by Ed Phillips – was your favorite?

Philips gave a clear performance throughout so all characters were clearly distinguishable.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Only if it were shot on location.

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- Peggy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-19-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios