Queen of Zazzau

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

This is the story of Amina of Zazzau. I was intrigued by the description of this book, and I got intrigue, excitement, dread, and love all in this wonderful story. I was unaware that historians believe that Amina was an actual ruler in what is now part of Nigeria. I love strong female characters and she has this in spades. Amina is also relatable in that she has family conflict, finds and loses love, tries to live up to expectations, and is altogether human.

It is foreseen that Amina will bring war and destruction to her people. She tries to do everything she can to not let this be her fate, however, fate has other ideas (helped along by a war god who wants her all to himself). She does eventually align with the war god, but their relationship is tumultuous and comes with a curse(s). There are some extremely erotic scenes in this novel. The relationship between Amina and Jaruma is what you would expect of a best friend and protector. The end was a bit of a surprise to me, however, if I knew the history I may have expected it. 

I am hoping to read more from this author in the future.
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I ended up DNFing this book because it is one of those books where you get a lot of action in the beginning, and it runs out of steam rather quickly. I had no clue if the world was fictional or real or where the scene was taking place. Some of the scenes skipped and did not flow the way I am used to. I gave up after chapter 13 when a particular character died. The premise intrigued me, and the cover is gorgeous but other than that the story did not entice me as much as I thought it would.
1/5 stars.
For a full review see my blog at https://bookgirlreviewsbooks.blogspot.com/
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I requested Queen of Zazzau from Netgalley because the cover was so striking and I was fascinated by the premise.

It's #ownvoices.

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Let me start with something positive. I didn't know that the story was based on a historical queen and this story led me to reading up as much as I could about her. It was a fascinating task!

However, the book itself. I'm so disappointed in it. I'm really very disappointed. Especially with the portrayal of sex. Giving a blowjob and having sex in a non-conventional position are considered awful. The main character actually says giving a blowjob is a job for prostitutes.

Also, the main character states that she thinks that she has less freedom than her slaves. If this was true, why doesn't she give up her crown and become a slave?

I know some readers may say that this is historically accurate, however, I'd expect it to be called out in the story or that she learns that these opinions are not factual. I basically continued reading because of this. But alas, no, there wasn't anything mentioning that these opinions were wrong.

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This book was awful. I did not like it at all. It actually led to a really awful book slump.

Trigger warnings: attempted rape, sexual assault, classism.
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Totally kick-ass!

TL;DR – A smashing tale of war, love, magic and gods, with seriously strong female characters

5Button

Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of historical fantasy, fans of strong female leads

About the Book…

Amina is a princess, heir to the throne of Zazzau and a destiny of war and bloodshed. Amina must prove herself as a warrior and lead Zazzau against hordes of foreign enemies and strange magic. But the god of war has his sights set on Amina, and ruling the nation soon proves to be far more complicated than Amina could have possibly imagined.

Queen of Zazzau follows Amina from her beginnings as the heir apparent, through war and love and impossible bargains. The book takes place over some 80 years, during which Amina becomes a strong military leader, a Queen and the wife of a god. It is full to the brim with battles and magic, gods and romance.

What I thought…

I put off reading this book for a while as it is pretty long, clocking in at 510 pages – and what a selection of pages they are!

My favourite thing about this book is its lead character, Amina. Amina is a wonderful example of well-rounded, strong female lead. She’s powerful, clever, loving, dedicated – she is brilliant. We get to explore so many facets of Amina’s character as the story progresses, from romantic interests, battle tactics, diplomacy…even an unexpected pregnancy. Life throws so much at Amina, and she doesn’t take it lying down, but at the same time, she has this fragile side that feels so real – she struggles to keep going at times, allowing fear and panic to take hold of her. Amina is such a great character for so many reasons, and I’m super pleased to have read her story.

Another thing I loved was the way religion is explored in this book. Strictly speaking, the Zazzauwa are Muslim, but for many, if not most of them the old religion still exists – a host of other gods hold some sway over the workings of the world and I found it really interesting to see how the two quite disparate set of beliefs gelled together into a functioning belief system.

My only complaint about this book was the ending. Now, I need to say before I go further, that I did like the ending – I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with it. Feel free to skip this paragraph as it does contain spoilers and isn’t hugely important.

So an old prophecy has linked Amina and the god of war for years, and when he first appears, Amina wants no part of it. She’s quite happy as she is, she is already in love with someone else but the god of war insists that she will be his eventually. This turns out to be true, but when she finally does go to him, she offers herself in exchange for his influence over a battle that will decide the fate of her kingdom and everyone in it. So Amina becomes his wife, and then the god drops the bombshell that she will now feel intense sexual desire, which he will only satisfy when he feels like it. She is free to sleep with other men, but they MUST die afterwards. I think we can all agree this is beyond creepy and straight up abusive – but that’s gods for you, those guys are jerks. Anyway, because of this, Amina is prevented from properly experiencing love for her entire life – which, incidentally, is spent eternally young, so for 80 years she can’t allow herself to love another man, instead of taking a number of ‘temporary husbands’ and killing them, or periodically having sex with the god of war. Which brings us to the end. Turns out, after all this, she completely loves the god of war and they ride off into the sunset together.

OK spoilers over, on to my point. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’m autistic – I have trouble understanding how other peoples minds work. But to me, the end doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure what I would have wanted in its place, and I’m not begrudging the bitter-sweet ending, but still, it doesn’t sit quite right with me. But that could just be my weird interpretation – don’t let it prevent you reading the book and making up your own mind.

Final Thoughts…

This book is an epic tale with so much to love about it. I’m really pleased I read it and will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for anything J.S. Emuakpor might release in the future.
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The author paid homage to West African culture. The fantasy aspects were wonderfully handled and the story sends a positive message.
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I was very hopeful reading a story set in what is now Nigeria with a real Queen from the mid 1500's. What I didn't expect was the very strong thread of fantasy/sci-fi involving several gods. I enjoy fantasy though, but the way it developed was difficult for me to read. Amina is part of a prophecy that basically says she will be part of a lot of war and deaths regarding her people. This develops into a relationship with the God of War, Dafaru. The way the sex scenes were written, especially with Dafaru, seemed very forced and while I realize women's rights have been non-existent in history, reading it in today's society was triggering. Finally, we have an Afrocentric story of a powerful woman!! Instead of her story being about how she grows from a princess, to a warrior to a queen, it's reduced to sex with a god, a man who is stronger than her and she is forced to kill any man she sleeps with that is not Dafaru. 

I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I liked this book. I liked the setting. I liked how it felt like, with the Nigerian Gods, it felt like a historical fairy tale. Amina is a warrior who is devoted to her country's well being.

My huge problem is how the sex scenes are written. They're on the side of non-consensual. It's one thing when a god is being pushy after Amina says no but it's another when it's a human love interest. 

Once she stops having human love interests and cares more about conquering then it gets more interesting. Looking forward reading about more African queens written with this historical fairy tale treatment.
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This book was a joy to read. Amina is a princess of a desert land who ends up in a relationship with the God of War to protect her people.  This agreement, of course, comes with some stipulations. Amina is an incredibly fun character. While at times I found her decisions frustrating everything was in line with the character. The cast of characters in this book was amazing. Suleman, Jaruma and the various advisors all felt incredibly genuine. Dafaru came to life on the page and definitely brought a bit of heat. I would have loved to read morw about the world of the gods as the descriptions were stunning.
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I'm not sure what I was expecting when I opened up Queen of Zazzau. But what I found was an expansive story about a girl, Amina, who has to grow into her power. We are able to witness her entire character development as she has to learn just how much power and responsibility her life entails. As the princess, Amina takes it for granted that she will become the queen, but without a real concept of what it means.

What it takes. And what sacrifices need to be made.

Just how much control does Amina have over her life? Over her kingdom? Over her people? She experiences love, loss, and everything in between. I was captivated by how fierce Amina is, how steadfast she is to not lose her power to a man. At the same time, I felt bad for her because there are genuine things she does not understand.

She has trouble staying her tongue, staying in line, and making difficult choices. And her decisions have real consequences. Even if she is, a times, reckless, Queen of Zazzau asks us what it takes to be a good ruler. A good queen.
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ARC Copy...where to start other then it had the epic scale battle action, attention to details imagery relating things like the scenery and the clothing of the different cultures/groups plus one very fiery female warrior riding into battle and standing strong in the heat of combat!
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Set in West Africa from the second half of the 16th Century, and into the early years on the 17th Century so we have here an historical fantasy tale centred on and around Princess Amina.  J S Emuakpor certainly brings to life the country and the wars fought between different kingdoms as they seek to establish themselves and prevent others from conquering them.

Amina is believed to have been a real person and ruler these days, once you strip away all the legends and myths, and thus here her story is brought to life, narrated by herself and with fantasy elements, after all there is magic here, and the myths of Gods and destinies.  Obviously by the title we know that our princess will eventually be a queen, and indeed by source materials available, a rather formidable warrior queen.

With danger surrounding her mother’s kingdom and a rather unpleasant prophecy surrounding her birth so Amina has to set out to find whether what the Oracle has pronounced is true, and what her fate is.  But to do so means bargaining with the Gods, and what price will she have to pay to keep her kingdom safe?

In some ways mirroring certain Greek myths and legends, there is also a good strong historical element here, as well as some very good fighting and battle sequences.  Taking in such things as diplomacy this is not the fastest paced novel in this sort of genre, however that does work in its favour as you are given a bit more information and feel into what life was like in West Africa at the time, and the religious beliefs, which incorporated the traditional as well as incursions from Islam.  What did detract somewhat for me personally was the scenes of erotica, which on a couple of occasions did feel like a bit of plumping up the pages and didn’t really deliver anything more than a bit of titillation to the story as a whole.

In all though this did make for a good read that was enjoyable to sit back with, and with a strong woman at the heart of this should prove popular with many in today’s world.  Thank you to SWFA and NetGalley for an eARC.
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