The Shadow King: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Intense and illuminating read. It’s historical fiction about a place and war that I knew very little about. And a fascinating plot featuring the Ethiopian women who fought in this war. Their stories were finally told and beautifully so.

— Audrey H.

An epic novel ripe with language, The Shadow King also manages a rich portrayal of its principle characters, many of them deeply flawed. The book speaks of history and of memory, and of power both used and abused. It particularly speaks of the place of women in society. Riveting as it gathers momentum, you can't look away. 

— Lee


Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, and named a best book of the year by the New York Times, NPR, Elle, Time, and more, The Shadow King is an “unforgettable epic from an immensely talented author who’s unafraid to take risks” (Michael Schaub, NPR).

Set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record. At its heart is orphaned maid Hirut, who finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. What follows is a heartrending and unputdownable exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.

About the Author

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Maaza Mengiste received a 2020 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Also a Fulbright Scholar and a professor at Queens College, she is the author of The Shadow King and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, and a 2018 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She lives in New York City.

Praise For…

Lyrical, remarkable.

Capacious.… adopts the register of myth to shape an epic of nationhood and resistance.

Unforgettable.… [A] propulsive read that captures a historical moment from a fresh perspective.

[The Shadow King] is written in a key of pride and exaltation, and its characters have the outsize form of national heroes.… Stirring.

— Sam Sacks

In haunting and beautiful prose, Mengiste shines a light on those whose lives are not often heralded.

Ambitious and illuminating.
— Elizabeth Sile

A beautiful and thoughtful epic.
— Francesca Capossela

Stunning.… [Mengiste] produced a work of fiction that is epic in reach, with brilliant borrowings from the forms of classic tragedy.… The book is impossible to put down or put out of mind.

The Shadow King exposes a brutal chapter in Ethiopia’s history and urges readers to listen for the untold stories of war, especially those of women.

— Katie Noah Gibson

Monumental.… Mengiste’s extraordinary characters—shrewd Kidane, militant Aster, the enigmatic cook, narcissistic Italian commander Fucelli, conflicted photographer Ettore, elusive prostitute Fifi, even haunted Selassie—epitomize the impossibly intricate ties between humanity and monstrosity, and the unthinkable, immeasurable cost of survival.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393358513
ISBN-10: 0393358518
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Pages: 448

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