Night Shade Books/232 pages
Review by Joyce Frohn
In 1974, the first Imaro story was published in Dark Fantasy magazine. The Canadian author, Charles Saunders, loved fantasy for years but realized he could no longer deal with the racism he found in the stories there; so he wrote his own stories. It was the height of action adventure but Imaro stood out not only for his race, but also for the excellence of the writing. After short stories (one in the first edition of The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories) and three novels, Charles Saunders moved into other fields in the late 80’s.
In 2003, a lifelong fan from Australia got ahold of his e-mail and begged for more Imaro stories. Charles Saunders told publishers and fans for years that he couldn’t go back. Reality had intruded. One Imaro story, in the first Imaro novel, written in the 70′s, “Slaves of the Giant Kings” had eerie similarities to the Rwandan massacre of 1994. Charles Saunders wrote back to that fan and told him the problem. There was no way to write the story out of the book and no way to deal with it in the book.
Until fan and writer worked together and rewrote the novel, figuring out where the second novel should begin. That’s right, even if you have one of the original and valuable first copies of Imaro; this one is different.
These stories have the same pulse pounding adventure that made fast action fantasy famous but with a depth of plot and character development that sets them apart. This is the first in a series, so don’t expect everything to be resolved. And keep pushing the publisher so that number two can come out soon. Please.
Imaro is one of those silent, powerful, haunted heroes that so many of us love. The rest of the characters, even the villains, are believable. Horrifically inhuman, but believable.
This new book chronicles Imaro’s life from childhood among the Ilyassai, based on the Masai. He travels across a continent bristling with magic, many gods and many cultures. All of them are based on real cultures. Echoes of anthropology class may appear in your head as he travels. He must fight his way through a continent to find out who or what wants him dead. Of course, there’s a beautiful woman he falls in love with, but she’s as tough as he is and probably smarter.
This is one book where writers should definitely read the forward. It’s the story of how and why Charles Saunders rewrote his story. It’s a great lesson for all of us, both writers and fans alike; never give up. Who knows what an impact one little e-mail of yours might have on someone.