African legend is brought to life in the graphic novel King Shaka: Zulu Legend by Luke W. Molver.

King Shaka deals with political intrigue and betrayal as he tries to keep hold of his kingdom. Shaka is depicted as a battle-scarred leader of the Zulu tribe. He wears a golden band around his head with red and white feathers. Scars streak across his cheeks. He wears a necklace adorned with teeth and a long flowing gold cape. On the front cover, Shaka has huge biceps, six-pack abs with a spear in one hand and a shield in the other.

The story opens with King Shaka being warned that an army is approaching. He doesn’t listen. Then an escaped slave informs King Shaka that white settlers are coming. King Shaka is confident that he can handle them. The settlers are introduced as Lieutenant Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn of the Cape Colony. He agrees to help the stranded white settlers with an offer of shelter and friendship. He is wary of this alliance and knows it is tenuous at best. Shaka’s act of charity is frowned upon by his sister, who consults with the elder leadership led by women. The elders see the relationship with the white settlers to be fruitful to the Zulu. They tell her that they provide medicine, access to trade routes, and business partnerships. King Shaka learns that other external forces are looking to take down the Zulu. The Iziyendane tribe is angry because their people were taken as slaves. They felt Shaka did nothing to stop it from happening. Internally, Shaka’s brother Dignane has his eye on the throne.

Color is used very effectively in King Shaka: Zulu Legend to give us a sense of place and action. Earthy tones are featured throughout the graphic novel. It gives a deep sense of how overpowering the concept of land is. Land that is being fought for and the threat of it being taken away. The golden tones blend in with the sand to represent the desert. The gold also reflects in the jewelry that adorns their bodies. The red tones emerge in two different sequences. In one sequence, you have red from the fire which gives warmth and cooks their food. You also get red when violent scenes occur when there is a clash between two tribes. We see spears pierce bodies and blood spurting out.

I would recommend King Shaka: Zulu Legend for libraries looking to add diversity and historical graphic novels to their collection. While there is a lot of violence, it is not shown in overly graphic or gory detail. The last few pages provide essential background to the story. They detail the historical and political events. They also provide information about the role of women, Zulu culture, and the language. The one thing missing was a breakdown of the different tribes and their relation to each other.

King Shaka: Zulu Legend
by Luke W. Molver
ISBN: 9781946498939
Catalyst Press, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen

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  • Tanya

    | She/Her

    Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.

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