HALF A LION

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After half brothers Sakhan and Neneh engage in a public fight that embarrasses their father, Chief Kheng, the latter finds himself troubled by the perilous state of his Lion tribe. But when Sakhan’s sister Adah is killed by unknown assailants, the chief opts to bring his sons with him as the tribe prepares for an uncertain war. From there, the action-packed novel kicks into gear as the tribe quickly finds members of a rival tribe and engages them in bloody battle, with Sakhan experiencing his first kills. After the chief’s eldest son, Haikachi, infamously known as the “Butcher of Bamundia,” is wounded and then mocked by the deceitful Neneh, a power struggle among the chief’s sons arises—and all the while, warring tribes begin taking steps for further battles. After Kheng’s death, his tribe threatens to cleave into smaller, antagonistic factions, fueled by Neneh’s ambitions and claim to his father’s throne, while Sakhan works to come to terms with his own destiny as he prepares to mount a challenge. Although the fight scenes, especially between the siblings, often take center stage in this narrative, what stands out most impressively is Oswald’s respectful treatment of elements of Central African culture. His characters are well rounded, and although the story make ample use of mysticism, it never falls prey to exoticism; instead, the author’s reverence for the traditions that inspired the work is clear. Oswald also effectively creates a world with a clear sense of mythography, with characters frequently taking the time to recall past battles and events, which gives the novel just enough dramatic sweep to feel like a historical epic.

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