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I finally read this Africanized sword & sorcery tale (or, "Sword & Soul" tale, if you will). Here's the bullet points:
• Capable if not overly-impressive writing that sometimes gets mired in the protagonist's semi-believable viewpoint. I'm pretty sure I would like these stories better if the main character's ideas were more hidden and more time was spent on dialogue and description/atmosphere.
• Cool enemies that felt part Lovecraftian, part African folklore, and all demon. Honestly, these were by far my favorite bits of the stories. The best was a kind of equally gross and voluptuous many-breasted hippo demon who wants to "love" the hero to death beneath the waters of its pool.
• A heavy Burroughsian influence, to the story's detriment I think. Men fall into three camps: the mighty-thewed and invincible protagonist, yes-men, and traitors. Women are of a single type: voluptuous, clever, slavishly devoted, and generally either capable, victims, or invisible as the plot and their hero-lord-husband needs them to be.
• I don't know if I can expertly speak to the Africanized nature of this, but my impression is that a) it does a great job of incorporating African tropes, but b) they feel like Westernized versions - not like an insider treatment. That's just my impression.
I should add that the novel is from a collection of stories written in the 1970's and the author is an African American currently living in Canada.
Saunders wrote the Imaro stories not only to give fantasy ‘a black character that matters’, but to also have the kind of stories he wanted to read himself – a worthy motivation that has led to the creation of some great works of fantasy.