Saturday, January 23, 2010


Imaro: The Naama War is the ‘book that was, then wasn’t, now is again’. The checkered history of the Imaro books is semi-legendary – first published by DAW in the 1980’s then by Nightshade Books a little more recently, Imaro faltered not once but twice, leaving both the character and fans of the series in limbo.

Until now.

Thanks to Sword and Soul Media, Imaro: The Naama War has finally been unleashed and it has has been well worth the wait.

For those who don’t know, Imaro is an Ilyassai warrior in Nyumbani (a brilliantly imagined and realized alternative Africa) who moves from outcast to bandit leader and, ultimately, to holding the fate of the entire continent in his hands. Comparisons with Howard and Conan are both inevitable and somewhat misleading since Imaro is much, much more than an African Conan - although fans of Howard will find much to enjoy here – and is very much his own man and, equally, so is Charles R. Saunders. A writer who is capable of both great subtlety and great action in his stories, Saunders’ muscular prose blends with very human (and in some cases inhuman) characters to create a world that is far beyond the usual cod Medieval Europe that predominates much of sword and sorcery.

Following on directly from The Trail of Bohu, The Naama War racks up the odds, pitting nation against nation, gods against gods, and, ultimately, Imaro against his nemesis/ doppelganger, Bohu. Battles, both epic and personal, are fought, a harrowing quest is undertaken, the fate of Nyumbani hangs in the balance and, in some cases, the characters find that the true cost of war is not always paid in blood.

One of Saunders’ great strengths is – like Howard and David Gemmell - his ability to create a world that is simultaneously familiar and totally different to our own. There are parallels with both Zulu and Maasai culture in the Ilyassai and Abamba nations and echoes of pre-apartheid South Africa in Naama (although Saunders’ is too subtle a writer to ever indulge in simple parallels or fictional recriminations) and the continent of Nyumbani is vividly realized and evoked.

While this isn’t the best place for new readers to start with Imaro, for fans of the series The Naama War is a delight from start to finish, answering questions that have hung in the air for nearly a quarter of a century (depending on when you first started reading Imaro, although I must confess that I am a recent convert) and delivering the sort of all-out action and utterly believable characters which have become a hallmark of both Imaro and his creator.

Where the earlier Imaro novels, in particular Imaro and Imaro 2: The Quest For Cush, were somewhat episodic in their structure (reflecting their origins in Saunders’ short fiction), The Naama War is very much a novel: epic in scope but more importantly, deeply human at its core. Saunders makes you care about his characters, both major and minor, and the plot springs from the characters never the other way round.

The Naama War is difficult to review without giving too much away – for fans of the series it is a welcome return to Nyumbani and provides an extremely satisfying end to the current saga of Imaro while laying the groundwork for a continuation of the series (and if there is any justice in the universe then we will see more Imaro stories and novels)

If you care about sword and sorcery (or just good fiction in general) the Imaro books are a must have – a unique and brilliant creation.

Welcome back, Imaro.

For more information on Imaro and his creator:

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