Paperback, 200 Pages
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Charles R. Saunders, critically acclaimed author of the cult classic Imaro novels, has created yet another heroic-fantasy icon in an Africa of a different place and time. Orphaned at a young age, Dossouye becomes a soldier in the women’s army of the kingdom of Abomey. In a war against the rival kingdom of Abanti, Dossouye saves her people from certain destruction; but a cruel twist of fate compels her to go into exile. Mounted on her mighty war-bull, Gbo, Dossouye enters the vast rain forest beyond the borders of her homeland, seeking a place to call her own. The forest is where Dossouye will either find a new purpose in life… or find her life cut short by the many menaces she encounters.
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Apr 22, 2017Charles R. Saunders led the creation of the Sword & Soul sub-genre (under Fantasy). My previous review of Saunder’s more famous, male character Imaro details more about his writing history. In short, he was compelled to create myths stemming from Africa rather than the typical European-centric standard. He spins a good tale, and his perspective does feel fresh. Like Imaro, Dossouye is a essentially a lone warrior (she does have a trusty mount called Gbo, a war buffalo!). Do not expect elves or party/fellowships. Do expect to experience strong mix of sorcery/magic, creatures (supernatural and wild), and lots of fighting. This novel combines six t Tales originally published (in different form) are combined into chapters: 1 – “Agbewe’s Sword”: Two cultures, the Abanti and Abomea, battle with sorcery 2 – “Gimmile’s Songs”: A chance encounter with cursed magician/musician 3— “Shiminege’s Mask”: (draws short straw to be sacrificed to a sichi 4— “Yahimba’s Choice”: Tarusi (realized forms... More > of mens’ fear of girls not getting circumcised) take center stage. With Saunders already infusing black history into dark fantasy, with this collection he strived to go further by taking on a woman’s character. From the outset, I had in mind doing some type of Bechdel-Test (one measure of how well women are portrayed in movie scripts in relation to male dominance). For this, I mentally noted how much Dossouye was just a “chick-in-chainmail”; ie how often did her gender really play a role in the story and not just be easily replaced/switched for a male stand-in. Although female issues are mentioned throughout, it wasn’t until this chapter did Saunder’s hit his stride across the board: African culture & myths, Dossouye’s gender, and classic Sword & Sorcery (battles with supernatural) all synchronize. 5 – “Marwe’s Forest:” A shapechanger confronts/seduces Dossouye 6 – “Obenga’s Drum:” Embiti (pygmy/dwarves) are saved by Dossouye The short stories flow as connected chapters, but the publication/creation history still affect the read. Saunders has a narrative voice that leans toward “telling” rather than “showing” but the plots are full of twists and milieu so unique that they read fast. Dossouye’s main motivation/choices stems from a culture around associating one’s three souls with feti trees. Without the trees living, one may turn into a zhumbi (a soulless Abomean). To achieve a 5-star, this critical relationship needed to be fleshed out earlier (or “shown” more).< Less
Jul 8, 2010The book starts out reasonably enough with a typical clash between good and evil but after the first story it veers in a whole new direction. Having exiled herself from her own culture due to doubting the beliefs of her people Dossouye ends up challenging the beliefs of other cultures sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. It's certainly worth reading but if you're coming into this expecting a female Imaro you're going to be disappointed but I expect like me you'll start to appreciate the book on it's own merits by the time you've read Shiminege's Mask
Jul 29, 2009"Awesome Sword & Sorcery Yarn" Unlike Imaro, Dossouye grew up as a part of an elite fighting force, ahosi (female warriors) of the Abomey Kingdom. In this kingdom, all the ahosi eschew marriage and family for their service to the Leopard King, the ruler of the land. They wear ankle bracelets that identify them as his brides and only when those rings are broken by the King’s decree are they allowed to marry and go on with their own, personal lives. As always, Saunders is a master of inventiveness and Dossouye and her battle sisters go into battle riding domesticated water buffaloes. Our heroine’s is a massive bull she calls Gbo. Rider and animal are inseperable and when in combat become an efficient team capable of devastating the enemy’s ranks. In the opening story, Dossouye is chosen by the spirits of her ancestors to wield a magical sword which will save her people from an invading army. She accomplishes this feat but at great personal sacrifice. At tale’s end she is... More > forced into self-exile, never to return home and she sets out to explore the vast, unknown lands to the East, where a great forest rises up out of the earth. It is in this alien world that the remaining four adventures occur and each is a gem of both action and human drama. Dossouye is a complex character and Saunders deftly explores her inner most thoughts and emotions as she adapts to her new life, alone in a new land filled with all manner of exotic peoples and creatures. This collection is clearly the set up for a proposed, full length novel which I pray is not too far in the writing. I am most eager to take up with this ahosi and her pet war-bull. Do not miss this book. If you love sword and sorcery, this one is a must for your library.< Less
Aug 11, 2008"Brief Review of Dossouye" This was my first reading of any of Charles Saunders' work, and I was very impressed both by the writing and by the universe he has created for Dossouye, one that's very different from the standard fantasy fare. It has its basis in African history, culture, and mythology, and within a few pages becomes a place you want to see more of, partly as a corrective to previous interpretations of "black continents", however good the stories were that they appeared in. But also because it's just a fun read, plain and simple. The title character is a female warrior from a nation with a warrior culture that embraces both sexes, and to boot her cavalry mount is war-buffalo! After saving her country, she ends up on a journey of exile, with adventures at every turn. The novel really consists of a series of linked short stories, my favorite being Shiminege's Mask, but Agbewe's Sword is also some great old school sword and sorcery writing. If I have... More > any criticism, it's that sometimes the linkages between the stories feel like they were added later. The one example that really sticks in my mind is the real power of Shiminege's Mask is that Dossouye rides away without knowing what the end result of her intervention will be, only the reader gets to learn that. However, in a later story, there is a vision sequence where she learns of what happened, and while it is possible the spirits were fooling her with the vision, as a reader we know that's not the case, and I feel that weakens the impact of Shiminege's Mask. After flying through Dossouye I've since read the Imaro series, and it is also a great read, so I look forward to more from Mr. Saunders and his great African-esque fantasy universes.< Less
Jun 1, 2008"Dossouye: The Grace of Charles Saunders' Pen" This review is originally posted at: http://purplezoe.blogspot.com/2008/06/indiefied-charles-saunders-dossouye.html Dossouye is a tale that is written seamlessly as a novel comprised of stories previously published in short story and novella form. Mr. Saunders wrote and rewrote them to weave them together, and with writing that is as smooth as silk, he accomplished it while championing the power of belief and illuminating the tethers of tradition. Dossouye speaks beautifully a message the world is finally beginning to grasp: We create what we believe. ...And we no doubt uphold those creations in the form of traditions. Tackling little understood Motherland traditions in his alternative version of Africa, Mr. Saunders helps us to understand the diversity of beliefs in so large a continent, even while making the metaphysical suggestion that our beliefs also imprint upon the ethers and create things in the unseen realms that we... More > may not see because we don't completely comprehend our power as a species. I was in awe with the subtle way he handled the suggestion, and found it very difficult to put the book down. Dossouye has a flow that creates a desire within in you to follow her throughout the pages, though at times she seems to have no sense of direction. It is the uncertainty that she possesses despite her larger than life warrioress skills, and keen mind, which kept me wondering where she was traveling in self-imposed exile, and which reflections of herself she might find? How long would her will last without a sense of direction? Had she given up? Could she accept her identity outside of lifelong traditions and beliefs her mind and spirit were communally shaped by? The loss that she continued to experience was heavy and saddening but didn't overpower the story or weigh it down. Dossouye somehow maintains a level of innocence as a character; a resilience that helps you to forget the harsh realities she's survived for a time, despite their severity, so you can continue to follow her, watch her break a few villians off something proper, and explore facets of herself that are both obvious and mysterious to the reader. She is as tender as she is fierce and as childlike as she is seasoned. The exquisitely written magik in the book mirrors, I think, the part of Dossouye that she is most unfamiliar with. The imagination in her vulnerability. The wings of beauty in the part of her that does not wield a sword. The child she might have been if her parents had been given a different fate. I especially cherished the beautiful relationship she shared with Gbo, her faithful companion. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and marveled at Charles' pacing. Just as I began to wonder where Dossouye was heading next, I realized the answer was already prepared to be revealed in layers just at the time the reader might ask it. Charles Saunders is a wonder of an author, who intelligently and with amazing grace has created a fierce warrioress on a continent most prefer to ignore, who reveals a fascinating world of human and at times superhuman interactions that reveal the inherent vulnerability in everything, and how our perceptions wrap themselves around those weaknesses with hopes of protecting that vulnerability from both external and internal threats, usually to no avail. Masterfully done. [Entire review available through link given above] ---- note to Sword and Soul Media: You are hard to find. Perhaps you can list contact/link info in your Lulu store? -PurpleZoe purplemag at gmail.com< Less
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- Standard Copyright License
- Sword & Soul Media
- April 6, 2008
- Perfect-bound Paperback
- Interior Ink
- Black & white
- 0.78 lbs.
- Dimensions (inches)
- 6 wide x 9 tall
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