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A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation. Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation. Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them. Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.


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A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation. Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation. Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them. Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.

30 review for She Would Be King

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jessica Parker

    This beautiful novel dazzles and makes you want to lock yourself away and only read. Ms. Moore illuminates what it means to be of and from places that are both faraway and inescapably familiar. She took me away from the chaos of our world and it was hard to leave her's. A Book Club Central pick!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    "I'n mean to hurt you. I thought you mean to hurt me..." This is such a beautiful, magical read. I found myself completely engulfed in the retelling of the beginning of Liberia and felt so connected to my family, ancestors, and history in a way that simply took my breath away. This is a piece of historical fiction that I will carry on my spirit for a long time. The story starts in 1831 with Gbessa, the witch being exiled from her Vai village for being cursed. While she is shunned from everyone, th "I'n mean to hurt you. I thought you mean to hurt me..." This is such a beautiful, magical read. I found myself completely engulfed in the retelling of the beginning of Liberia and felt so connected to my family, ancestors, and history in a way that simply took my breath away. This is a piece of historical fiction that I will carry on my spirit for a long time. The story starts in 1831 with Gbessa, the witch being exiled from her Vai village for being cursed. While she is shunned from everyone, the ever-present wind guides her (yes, the wind is personified and a narrator), and through Gbessa's solitude she takes on the wisdom of her "curse" that she will never die. Her part was fascinating to read and gets the novel off to its fantastical start very well. From her relationship to herself, to her mother, to Safua the Poro warrior/king, there is no shortage of richness between these characters. Moving on, we meet June Dey through his parents and the village that brings him forth in the good ole South of the United States. In Virginia, we learn the story of the Emerson plantation, we meet characters that may not be who they say they are and this section needs very attentive reading to follow what's going on, but the birth of June Dey, and his journey to discovering his "gift" (gift and curse are interchangeable with these characters so it's all about perspective). And when this Luke Cage mofo gets going, whew chile, he had me all in my feels. I love, love, love this section with my whole heart because it got me to thinking about the necessity to empower ourselves, in the event that whatever is trying to destroy us will never cease, and the idea of empowering ourselves with that which ensures our survival forever and always. It's like who do I have to become, what do I need to do or believe about myself to survive this persistent storm that may never go away? And the magical realism of this was just...*chef's kiss* And then we meet Norman Aragon, the mulatto son of Jamaica, whose gift is his ability to be in this world and of this world. I got my first hearty laugh in this section and appreciated its ability to marry the conceptual dichotomies between the colonizers and the colonized, the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown. "It'll be no good. They burn peppers to eat with their meat and it's unbearable to breathe in, sir." 😂😂😂😂 And then when our three characters come together in Liberia, my goodness I just want to have a class on this book. The history of Liberia's beginning is so well crafted with all the characters that come together from the American Colonization Society, the first Americo-Liberians, and the indigenous groups trying to figure out, "Who are all these people coming up in our area, o." Anyway, I love my historical narratives so much and this did not disappoint! The presence of all these forces, the build up of drama, the character arc of Gbessa, the relationship dynamics, the vision of a country where freedom and unity could exist puts this book into immediate must-read status. I'm not going to gush much more here (video soon come), but definitely read this book as soon as you can. It is exceptional. I'm so excited for Wayetu Moore's debut and can't wait to see how her offerings transform the literary canon. This is one helluva debut!

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Imagine Homegoing ON CRACK! I am not sure why there isn't a bigger hype surrounding Wayetu Moore's debut novel She Would Be King because it is absolutely enthralling. While I don't like comparing books, for some reason this book reminded me of how I felt reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I felt a pounding in my chest and fluttering in my stomach as I asked myself while reading this book- "what magic is this book?!" . I was reminded of how I felt when I was younger and I opened a book I know Imagine Homegoing ON CRACK! I am not sure why there isn't a bigger hype surrounding Wayetu Moore's debut novel She Would Be King because it is absolutely enthralling. While I don't like comparing books, for some reason this book reminded me of how I felt reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I felt a pounding in my chest and fluttering in my stomach as I asked myself while reading this book- "what magic is this book?!" . I was reminded of how I felt when I was younger and I opened a book I know I would absolutely love... it felt like magic. In She Would Be King we are exposed to magical realism, historical fiction, captivating characters and a storyline that grabs you from the very first line... I am talking about the dedication. The book features three characters- Gbessa born with a curse on her head but she would be king, June Dey born in Virginia from supernatural causes and Norman Aragon child of a Colonizer and Maroon Woman. These three characters were not only birthed in difficult circumstances but during a period in history where everything is stacked against them. We get a historical look into Jamaica during the time of the Maroons and Colonizers, Virginia during the booming slave trade and an in-depth look into Liberia's history. I never thought I would learn so much from this book, but from a historical perspective there is a lot to unpack- thanks for the additional reading material Wayetu Moore. If you are looking for a magical historical fiction, this is the book for you. If you want a book that is thoroughly researched, filled with strong female leads and tension for days- this is the book for you. If you enjoyed Homegoing, there is no doubt that you will love this as well. This book is currently on my top favorite books for 2018- it is that good! A must read. HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING THIS "Review" written upon finishing the book- you know how Amazon prompts you....ugh. See more thorough review above Absolutely enthralling! I could not put this book down and I haven't been able to shut up about it. This debut is a must read and an absolute favorite of mine for 2018. The characters are captivating the plot is well researched I learned so much from a historical perspective. A must read! Full review to come.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    When a beautiful special edition of Moore's debut was delivered to me as part of Powell's Indiespensable collection, I was stoked: Finally a novel about the foundation of Liberia, a fascinating country I had learnt about when I was part of an (American) Model UN team representing Liberia at National Model United Nations. And Moore does talk about the complicated history of this state, envisioned as a "free colony" at the African coast, a place were free slaves could settle. The three protagonist When a beautiful special edition of Moore's debut was delivered to me as part of Powell's Indiespensable collection, I was stoked: Finally a novel about the foundation of Liberia, a fascinating country I had learnt about when I was part of an (American) Model UN team representing Liberia at National Model United Nations. And Moore does talk about the complicated history of this state, envisioned as a "free colony" at the African coast, a place were free slaves could settle. The three protagonists stand for the peoples of Liberia and are endowed with magical powers: We meet June Dey, a former slave from Virginia with superhuman strength; Norman, the child of a white colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica who can become invisible (thus turning the fact that the humanity of slaves has been ignored by their captors into a weapon); and then there's Gbessa, a member of the African Vai tribe - she owns the biggest gift of all: Life, as she is undying. (Yes, all of this is blatant symbolism.) Moore tells the backstories of her three characters in pretty excessive length before they finally meet in Monrovia - I have to admit that this tested my patience quite a bit. Another factor that bothered me was the use of the superpowers: I really enjoy magical realism as long as the fantastical elements teach me something that lies beyond actual reality or reveal something about the worldview and culture of the characters. In this case though, the powers often felt like plot devices employed to hold the story together. The choice of narrator didn't do much for me either (view spoiler)[(in a mythical convergence of natural powers and ancestral wisdom, the story is told by the wind, but unfortunately, this narrative voice feels forced) (hide spoiler)] . What I really appreciated though was Moore's talent for describing scenes and moods - everything she writes feels elegant and alive, even if the pacing is sometimes slightly uneven. I also liked that she discussed the various conflicts that erupted in Liberia, and finds voices for the different sides (except the slavers, but this story is not about them - their voices have been too loud for too long). When they met the indigenous population, the settlers themselves came from different places and had different backgrounds - are the aspirations to make Liberia (liber = free) a haven for all of them sufficient to render the country a success? A promising debut, but the story does not quite come together.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    *3.5* This a tough review to write because my feelings on this book are so mixed. On one hand I learned a terrific amount about the foundation story of Liberia. A story that has been rarely explored in fiction. I thought it was interesting that a recent NYT article aligned Moore’s potential legacy to that of the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose novels about Nigeria reignited popular interest in the country’s stories. “She is cracking that space in America for Liberian writers” Th *3.5* This a tough review to write because my feelings on this book are so mixed. On one hand I learned a terrific amount about the foundation story of Liberia. A story that has been rarely explored in fiction. I thought it was interesting that a recent NYT article aligned Moore’s potential legacy to that of the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose novels about Nigeria reignited popular interest in the country’s stories. “She is cracking that space in America for Liberian writers” This book does paint a picture of Liberia that is far more nuanced and interesting than perhaps what I had in my head from the news or other books about Africa. The three background stories that form almost half the book are exceptional and represent the populations from whence the nascent Libera would be drawn. Gbessa the "witch" belonging to the indigenous Vai tribe, Norman Aragon- a Jamaican Maroon - and June Dey a slave from America. Moore invests much time setting the scene for these three characters to end up together in Monrovia. The style of storytelling is very much rooted in an African tradition where supernatural elements exist. And this may be a deal-breaker for many readers. For example, the three main characters have some obliging super powers - invisibility, super-human strength and immortality, very useful for dealing to those pesky French. An added annoyance for me was the narrator, a disembodied voice that pops up like Clippy the office assistant, whispering endearments of little import into characters ears. Maybe the most significant problem was not in the end the magical realism but the disappointment that after all the effort Moore put into the background of her characters, it is really only Gbessa's story that had enough oomph in it to sustain the second half. Norman and June are left to Super Hero their way out of the occasional skirmish. I wish more could have been done with the ultimately disappointing second half, especially given such a strong start. In summary : - an interesting but flawed debut. However, bring on more stories from Liberia, there is surely a gold-mine of storytelling potential here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Darkowaa

    !!! full review - https://africanbookaddict.com/2018/09... 3.5 stars rounded up. I’d love to know what Liberians and Liberian-Americans think of this novel, as they would probably better understand the nuances of the story. I can confidently say I will read anything by Wayétu Moore, and that this debut is a lovely ode to the country of Liberia and Liberian womanhood, through Gbessa’s complex characterization.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    Wow. Just, wow. What a powerful and magical read. A retelling of the creation of Liberia featuring 3 heartbreaking and mystical characters; Gbessa who has the gift (or curse) of immortality, June Dey who has super strength and is bulletproof (similar to Luke Cage, but during slavery. Plus, I will NEVER stop feeling all of the things when consuming media about bullet proof black men), and Norman who, like his mother, has the ability to become invisible. Meanwhile, we're following the narrator who Wow. Just, wow. What a powerful and magical read. A retelling of the creation of Liberia featuring 3 heartbreaking and mystical characters; Gbessa who has the gift (or curse) of immortality, June Dey who has super strength and is bulletproof (similar to Luke Cage, but during slavery. Plus, I will NEVER stop feeling all of the things when consuming media about bullet proof black men), and Norman who, like his mother, has the ability to become invisible. Meanwhile, we're following the narrator who is the woman in the wind. Love, love, LOVED this. A retelling and criticism of colonialism and white supremacy. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Magical realism meets Marvel action movie to create a mythic fable of nationhood. Wayétu Moore’s debut, She Would Be King, infuses the historical founding of Liberia with tales of spirits, wanderers and strange happenings. In true superhero style, each of the key figures has a tragic backstory, and the first half of She Would Be King relates their origin stories in turn. Mothers are central to Moore, so the three tales all begin with a mother and an auspicious birth. Each of the three infants gr Magical realism meets Marvel action movie to create a mythic fable of nationhood. Wayétu Moore’s debut, She Would Be King, infuses the historical founding of Liberia with tales of spirits, wanderers and strange happenings. In true superhero style, each of the key figures has a tragic backstory, and the first half of She Would Be King relates their origin stories in turn. Mothers are central to Moore, so the three tales all begin with a mother and an auspicious birth. Each of the three infants grows into a child with a distinctly superhuman talent, each is forced to flee their home, they are destined to cross paths in a land yet to be dubbed Liberia. It’s a lengthy set up in order to unite the three central characters, who are clearly representative of the disparate peoples who formed the beginnings of Liberia (the indigenous groups, African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans respectively). But I enjoyed this extended prelude immensely. The stories have an epic flavour and the lush style of the telling was suitably grand for a founding myth. Rome has Romulus and Remus, maybe Liberia could have Gbessa, June and Norman? Unfortunately I found the second half of the book less successful. Mainly because the story was unevenly weighted towards Gbessa the witch, with June and Norman relegated to background players whose stories didn’t deliver a satisfying payoff. I kept hoping Moore could pull it off and bring all the threads together by the end. It was this hope more than anything else, I think, that propelled me through the last part of the book, but it just didn’t quite land for me. I saw an interview with Moore in which she said she is working on a memoir that will also ‘engage with magical realism’ (at age 5 she fled Liberia with her family to escape the civil war there) and also a novel about Mamy Wateh, both of which sound fascinating so I very much look forward to those. 3.5 stars rounded up

  9. 4 out of 5

    Irene (Read.Rewind)

    4.5

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    "Norman took off his shoes and placed his feet in the water, stiffening from its rigidity." If this sentence appeals to you - grammatically and atmospherically - then you may enjoy this book. "...mostly he just sat on a rock near some cultivated land farthest from the cluster of houses on three rows of hills, watching and writing ardently, as two or three sailors looked askance." If you find this tolerable - structurally and descriptively - then you may enjoy this book. "When the morning meals were "Norman took off his shoes and placed his feet in the water, stiffening from its rigidity." If this sentence appeals to you - grammatically and atmospherically - then you may enjoy this book. "...mostly he just sat on a rock near some cultivated land farthest from the cluster of houses on three rows of hills, watching and writing ardently, as two or three sailors looked askance." If you find this tolerable - structurally and descriptively - then you may enjoy this book. "When the morning meals were done and everyone and everything in the mansion were cleaned up, Maisy devoted two hours to giving Marlene lessons. Gbessa stayed close by the women during this time." followed later in the same paragraph by "Since Marlene had grown too old for lessons, Maisy had used the idle hours...to read her Bible." If this sequence doesn't cause you to ask questions like, "Isn't it 'everything and everyone WAS cleaned up'?" and "Did Marlene have two hours of lessons each morning or had she grown too old for them? Which is it?", then you may enjoy this book. You may enjoy this book but I did not. The spirit was willing but the text was weak. Moore reminds me of an exuberant child, so eager to share her story that she makes a hash of the telling. She scrambles language and leaves important things out, forcing her listener to interrupt now and then (often, actually) to say, "Wait...what? Back up a minute." She seems to have a clear vsion of the scene in her own mind but fails to take the reader along much of the time. She's got a box full of interesting literary tools at her disposal but doesn't seem to understand how some are meant to function and isn't always buidling something sound. I was very frustrated by the reading experience. (Could you tell?). There is so much unrealized potential in the story itself. There are too many awkward shifts in perspective and wandering plot elements. There are character voices I did not find convincing. There are sudden, jarring dislocations of setting that just seem sloppy. And there is formulaic creative writing technique on display, but the formula often doesn't work. For example, it is very common to find sentences which contain one visual, one olfactory, and one auditory descriptive component: "From a distance, smoke rose...the wind carried the familiar scent of the room...and the sounds of...the nearby ocean." Once you notice the pattern, it loses much of the intended magic. This is a debut novel, which certainly accounts for some of what I found irksome. And - on the basis of two interviews I watched - Moore is a delightful, thoughtful, highly accomplished woman. I tend not to take such things into consideration when rating books, however, and so this one is - in comparison to other novels from the year - 2.5 stars rounded down.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Beautifully written blend of West African and Western story telling in this novel of Liberia’s founding. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    She Would Be King has a deeply mystical quality, punctuated by visceral episodes of brutality as it weaves a tale of oppression, magic, and freedom that spans an ocean. Part history, part magical realism, this book brings together an African witch cast out by her village, an American slave born in unusual circumstances, and a bi-racial Jamaican with a white rapist for a father, all with unusual abilities. The narrative tackles difficult subjects head on and has several beautifully written sectio She Would Be King has a deeply mystical quality, punctuated by visceral episodes of brutality as it weaves a tale of oppression, magic, and freedom that spans an ocean. Part history, part magical realism, this book brings together an African witch cast out by her village, an American slave born in unusual circumstances, and a bi-racial Jamaican with a white rapist for a father, all with unusual abilities. The narrative tackles difficult subjects head on and has several beautifully written sections, but it suffers from awkward narrative transitions, disconnected character narratives, dull and unnecessary passages, and a tendency to "tell" rather than "show" in parts. At times it feels as if the history and the issues are driving the narrative rather than the natural progressions of the characters. She Would Be King is a reimagining of the birth of Liberia that thoughtfully unpacks the atrocities borne out of prejudice across all segments of humanity, while also telling an empowering story about the possibility of black freedom. Gbessa is ostrasized as a cursed witch by her village, simply due to the day of her birth. June Dey is born into the racism and misogyny of the American south just prior to the Civil War. Norman is the violently conceived child of a white British researcher and a black Jamaican slave who carries the burden of white skin and a black identity. Even in Liberia where former American slaves are resettled, they create their own servant class and view native Africans as beneath them. The point is made than colonization is not limited to a single race, but is rather a condition of greed in humanity. Throughout this, we see constant misogyny and violence toward women. The stories of the three characters weave together in unexpected ways as each of them find a calling to defend the hope of true freedom for black men and women. June is inhumanly strong and cannot be harmed by bullets, so there is something deeply cathartic in seeing him fight to protect the vulnerable. Portions of this book were deeply moving and I wanted to love it in its entirety. Unfortunately, I was unable to. I did read an advance copy so it is possible some of my issues with the book were corrected in the final version, but I had a very inconsistent reading experience. Compelling and thought-provoking sections would be followed by chapters that were a struggle to get through. A bit more time spent on editing would have very much benefitted the story. However, given that it is a debut, I would be interested to read later work from the author. There is the beginning of something truly great here, but it gets bogged down in excess writing and lumbering transitions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stacey A. Prose and Palate

    No words. Incredible. Review to come.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    I found the story very uneven and some characters added solely for interest and not for the story. The first part was stronger with some good character-development, but the second part failed to use those characters to their potential. While centered around an interesting part of history, the book overall was bland. 2.5⭐ I found the story very uneven and some characters added solely for interest and not for the story. The first part was stronger with some good character-development, but the second part failed to use those characters to their potential. While centered around an interesting part of history, the book overall was bland. 2.5⭐️

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie Long

    Sigh. I really thought I would love this one. There are some brilliant elements and the story is a fascinating one, however it just never quite comes together convincingly. The pacing is very strange as well. At times, it feels so rushed that the characters aren’t developed and at others, it feels weighted and plodding. 2.5 rounded up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Megan C.

    Absolutely loved this book - check out my IG account @whatmeganreads for my full review. I think this would make an AMAZING book club book - there is so much to discuss and I think you'll be surprised at how much you have learned by the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    I feel so bad for not liking this book. It has so many positive reviews and I just could not get into it at all. It was more of a 2.5 star read than 3 😕

  18. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    Incredible. Beautifully written, compelling and magical tale.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Compelling storytelling with such power, the scenes leap off the page into your senses. More later when I start breathing normally again... Analyzing data from the space exploration vehicles we've been lucky to have working in the cosmos, scientists find new planets. Exomoons. Reading this debut novel is like finding a new big thing in the universe. I've never liked the phrase "magical realism" - I think everything's magic and the characters we are fortunate to share time with - Gbessa, June Dey, Compelling storytelling with such power, the scenes leap off the page into your senses. More later when I start breathing normally again... Analyzing data from the space exploration vehicles we've been lucky to have working in the cosmos, scientists find new planets. Exomoons. Reading this debut novel is like finding a new big thing in the universe. I've never liked the phrase "magical realism" - I think everything's magic and the characters we are fortunate to share time with - Gbessa, June Dey, Norman Aragon, Darlene, Maisy - testify. Moving, glorious, as bright as a new planet we all missed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    3.5* rounded down Possible thoughts to follow

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan Henderson

    This magical retelling of Liberia’s beginning is so original, so bold and poetic, Wayétu Moore is destined for comparisons to Yann Martel, Markus Zusak, and Paulo Coelho. Her unforgettable heroine, Gbessa, leads those who’ve been stripped of their homes and their language to rise up and defend not only their own futures but the memory of those who would never see freedom.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte (charandbooks)

    Gbessa, a Vai girl, is said to be cursed because she was born on a day when a fellow tribe member suspected of witchcraft died and is thus exiled from her tribe but survives against all odds. Charlotte, a Virginia slave, dies while trying to protect a fellow slave that has lost both wife and child but her son June Dey is able to flee from the plantation due to his superhuman strength. Norman Aragon is born in Jamaica as the child of a forced relationship between a British researcher and Maroon s Gbessa, a Vai girl, is said to be cursed because she was born on a day when a fellow tribe member suspected of witchcraft died and is thus exiled from her tribe but survives against all odds. Charlotte, a Virginia slave, dies while trying to protect a fellow slave that has lost both wife and child but her son June Dey is able to flee from the plantation due to his superhuman strength. Norman Aragon is born in Jamaica as the child of a forced relationship between a British researcher and Maroon slave Nanni and a gift of his own makes it possible for him to board a ship across the Atlantic, a journey his father had promised his mother. The three unusual characters meet in the settlement Monrovia in West Africa, trying to navigate between colonizers, African American settlers, and indigenous tribes. This story is a blend of history, magical realism, and fantasy illustrating the tumultuous roots from tribal settlements over free colony of the American Colonization Society to the formation of the country Liberia. The prose is enchanting and captivating! The different settings (Liberia, Jamaica, and Virginia) bring so much nuance to the historical events of colonization and slave trade, describing both common and unique problems and challenges. All three main characters are fighting for acceptance, freedom, and family and I was rooting for all of them. The narratives are well balanced and intersect throughout the novel without sacrificing one for the other. I also loved appearance of a recurring 4th rather unusual character throughout the novel that linked the storylines together. I absolutely loved this book and cannot believe what a wonderful debut this is! If Wayetu Moore will write another book, I will read it immediately! Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up! Without a doubt 5/5 stars!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Will

    3.5, rounded up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jite

    Loved it! This debut novel by Wayétu Moore is not at all in what I would call my preferred genre. I’m not particularly into fantasy or adventure or historical fiction. That said when Amazon recommended this to me when it was released, something about it grabbed my attention and I had to give it a read. Good decision making on my part because I absolutely loved this novel. The novel is in two “books” or two parts if you will. The first (titled “The Three”) is a sort of background coming of age stor Loved it! This debut novel by Wayétu Moore is not at all in what I would call my preferred genre. I’m not particularly into fantasy or adventure or historical fiction. That said when Amazon recommended this to me when it was released, something about it grabbed my attention and I had to give it a read. Good decision making on my part because I absolutely loved this novel. The novel is in two “books” or two parts if you will. The first (titled “The Three”) is a sort of background coming of age story for the three main characters, Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon. It’s tragic but these are superhero kids so it’s also fun and no hardship to read. The second part of the novel (titled “She Would Be King” focused more on the history of Liberia and the repatriation of slaves and the attack on indigenous culture and beliefs. I had assumed that Gbessa was the title character but I felt like she (understandably) became diminished for much of this second part of the novel so that her re-emergence near the end seems a little like “see what love made her do,” which I suppose is more realistic than her being moved by people who were inhuman to her. For the most part, this reads like a character-driven adventure story set in Liberia’s actual history of becoming a nation. The author makes this story so engaging that afterwards, you’ll want to go study some Liberian history to find out if life (Gbessa), resilience (June Dey) and unseen powers (Norman) prevailed in the end. I personally preferred Book 1 to Book 2 because in my opinion, Book 2 dwelt a lot on building the world of resettled Liberia then in the end rushing over what I felt should have been the real meat of the story i.e. the why and how of the “SHE being king.” I feel like a lot had been building with the three compelling characters throughout the novel and in the end, that potential wasn’t explored and they were sort of just written a rushed (and less creative than the rest of the novel) conclusion. That’s why I’m giving this novel 4 stars out of 5, but this is still an excellent read that I highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lekeisha The Booknerd

    I have no doubts that She Would Be King will be loved by many. And, on that note, if you are a fan of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing - or any literary masterpiece of the like - then this book should be on your TBR. Liberia's history told in magical locution. It doesn't get any better than that. I loved Gbessa's voice and strength, as well as June Day's. My only problem was the way the story ended. Not that it was bad, but it seemed to abruptly stop. Or maybe that's me being greedy. Still, this book is ma I have no doubts that She Would Be King will be loved by many. And, on that note, if you are a fan of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing - or any literary masterpiece of the like - then this book should be on your TBR. Liberia's history told in magical locution. It doesn't get any better than that. I loved Gbessa's voice and strength, as well as June Day's. My only problem was the way the story ended. Not that it was bad, but it seemed to abruptly stop. Or maybe that's me being greedy. Still, this book is magical and I am so glad it crossed my radar. *fist pumps to Publisher's Weekly for listing it as the book to read this fall*

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This was a 3.5 read for me. Thoughts coming shortly

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I want to write something brilliant to describe my time with this book. I want to reach in my mind and find the precise words to express the feelings this book made me feel. Alas, I am left wanting. Suffice it to say, "She Would Be King" is one of the best books I've read this year. The book was so handsomely written it should be read out loud. I can only hope Ms. Moore is somewhere dreaming up her next novel.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (tablereading)

    “That was when my father told me that freedom as a Negro man was different. I was free, you see, he assured me, but there were some places where I could act free and some places where I could not act free.” 〰 She Would Be King fictionalizes the formation of Liberia through the stories of three black characters who each have some form of power that protects, but also isolates them. Their stories are told separately and narrated by the wind who is her own character with her own story. Moore’s abilit “That was when my father told me that freedom as a Negro man was different. I was free, you see, he assured me, but there were some places where I could act free and some places where I could not act free.”⁣ ⁣ 〰️⁣ ⁣ She Would Be King fictionalizes the formation of Liberia through the stories of three black characters who each have some form of power that protects, but also isolates them. Their stories are told separately and narrated by the wind who is her own character with her own story. Moore’s ability to hold the competing narratives that span multiple time periods and locations apart and then seamlessly bring them together deserves recognition here!⁣ ⁣ The story sort of literalizes the term “magical negro” through the incorporation of magical realism, but turns the trope on its head by placing these characters in the starring roles and refusing to center their stories on aiding and abetting whiteness. Instead, Moore interrogates the devastating impacts of colonization, slavery, superstition, and whiteness on these characters both in terms of their individual histories and in terms of how they choose to use or not use their powers. ⁣ ⁣ There is a lot of analysis of how multifaceted and diverse blackness is in this book as well as the dys/function of power for black people. The main characters in this text are the powerful disempowered - they have the physical manifestations of actual powers and must find a way to make sense of often being disempowered in virtually every other way. They are slaves, castoffs, ghosts. They are the blessed and cursed. They are free and not free. And each of them deal with the tension of living along that spectrum differently.⁣ ⁣ There were elements of this that reminded me of Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie, which is a huge compliment IMO. Overall, this was excellent in terms of the writing and the careful execution of complex ideas within a historical setting.⁣ ⁣ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⁣

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paperback Paris

    —The review below was authored by Paperback Paris Contributor, Madison Troyer. Read more. Responsibility is a tough row to hoe. Thinking deeply about one’s life, often leads to lots of questions about responsibility: How responsible am I for the person I am? How much of that responsibility falls on other people and the way they’ve treated me and the situations they’ve put me through? How much responsibility do I have toward other people? These sorts of questions rest at the core of Wayétu Moore’s —The review below was authored by Paperback Paris Contributor, Madison Troyer. Read more. Responsibility is a tough row to hoe. Thinking deeply about one’s life, often leads to lots of questions about responsibility: How responsible am I for the person I am? How much of that responsibility falls on other people and the way they’ve treated me and the situations they’ve put me through? How much responsibility do I have toward other people? These sorts of questions rest at the core of Wayétu Moore’s debut novel, She Would Be King. Moore's first turn is split into two parts and tells both the individual narratives of three characters with unique gifts and the overarching story of the founding of Liberia. There’s Gbessa, ostracized by her community as a witch due to the day of her birth and blessed with the curse of immortality. June Day, a slave born on a Virginia plantation in unusual circumstances and bestowed with the gift of impenetrability. And Norman, a bi-racial Jamaican whose mother passed along the ability to become invisible at will. All three are seemingly lost and adrift, until a chance meeting in the jungles of Africa reveals the purpose of their individual gifts and gives them a new-found purpose in life. Moore founded her own publishing company, One Moore Book, whose main purpose is to publish literature for those whose narratives are largely missing from the literary world. She Would Be King perfectly illustrates this mission. Moore's novel abounds with historical details about the origin of Liberia—from its origins as a settlement of the American Colonization Society to the atrocities natives endured at the hands of French slave traders to nation building and the inadvertent racism it can bring as consequence. The result is a deeply moving and perfectly crafted mix of historical fiction and magical realism. The ancient wind, whose wisdom is all knowing and eternal, guides Gbessa, June Dey and Norman as they wrestle with their own identities and conflicts as well as the responsibility for others they find thrust upon them. The oppression, destruction, and difficulties they face seem at first unbeatable, but their resilience and ability to transcend these obstacles is remarkable. The culmination of this novel will leave you in awe of the human spirit and deeply, deeply moved — will have you musing more seriously of the duty you have in shaping your own communities and the flow of history. Moore's debut is poetic, extraordinary, and handles some tough questions without being overly political. By turns hypnotic and compelling, each line of prose maintains the story's rhythm, its glory. She Would Be King will linger with you for weeks after you turn the last page.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    Wonderful! Thought-provoking and a page-turner. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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