Book Review: Sanakhou by Elizabeth Evans

Title:Sanakhou
Author:Elizabeth Evans
Publisher: Eloquent Books, 2010
ISBN:978-1-60911-335-3

Sanakhou is battle brothers, brothers of history a relationship protected by the ancestors. Inside these pages readers will step into thirteenth century West Africa. The past comes to life with Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses, warriors, betrayal, battles, gold and the building of a kingdom. Readers will enjoy detailed descriptions of rivers, lands and bustling cities of the time.

The Konde entourage had traveled from their Do homeland near the Momburi Mountain to follow the broad Niger River. They had entered the flow of travelers downstream and west of the bend in the mighty river and had joined the many that traveled this route from the east. There had been caravans loaded with goods: rich silks, spices, jewels, and precious salt, all headed for the land of the Mandinkan empire to trade for the gold that was plentiful and controlled by Sundiata Keita. They had enjoyed the company of Arabs, Greeks, and even a few of the persistent Almoravids, missionaries of Islam who peppered West Africa in their zeal to convert those they considered pagans.

Sundiata Keita, the Hungering Lion, a warrior and leader of the Konde tribes, who is the only son of Sogolon Kedjou, the Buffalo woman. His destiny is to find and defeat the evil Sumanguru. With the help of his brothers, sanakhou, the Sankarani and Konde, he does this and the city of Niani is once again unified within the Mandinkan clans. He builds a kingdom for his tribe the Mandinkan. He now lives, rules and thrives in the Kingdom of Mali. The land that he rules is rich with gold mines, making the city a place for merchants and travelers to dwell and prosper.

Sundiata has a daughter named Chinue. In spite of his great empire the only thing he longs for is, for his daughter to be happy. He wants her to be married and have children. He commands the Mansa Faony Konde to send his son Prince Ayinde to come and marry his daughter, Princess Chinue. This is what sanakhou do to keep the peace and the tribes bonded in order for the Empire to stay as it is.

Ayinde is in love with Femi, but he is commanded to forget her and marry the Princess and rule the Kingdom of Mali. He hears rumors that Chinue is ugly and deformed. He can’t begin to imagine what his life would be like with such a hideous woman. How could he bear children with a woman who is known to have the evil eye and that can harm and bewitch a man.

Chinue on the other hand, is naive and innocent of what men are like. She teaches herself to read by interacting with the merchants that come to the kitchen to sell their wares. She learns by asking them questions about the squiggles (words) they write. By doing this she reads the squiggles in the only book she has. A poetry book that speaks of love. Her mentor Ifetayo teaches her about men, marriage and how to use various herbs.

Wemusa, the illegitimate son of Sundiata and the Captain of the Royal Guard is determined to stop the marriage of Ayinde and Chinue. His goal is to rule the Kingdom of Mali. His plans to soil the soon to be heir of the kingdom are to have Ayinde seduced and it be seen by the warriors of his land. With a planned seduction that is foiled it doesn’t take long for Ayinde and his mentor Khnemes to make plans of their own to make sure the wedding takes place.

Evans does a wonderful job of weaving the history of Western Africa into a tale of war and triumph, love and deception and the birth of a kingdom all together into one tale. Evans description of the buildings the lands and the people will have readers engrossed as if they were there.

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