KIRKUS – Shaka Zulu rises to power amid great regional turmoil to defend his people against the tide of the expanding European-backed slave trade. Gogo, an elder, opens by announcing that the story of Shaka is the “story that is part of all of our stories…it is in the clay of our homes…in our blood and our bones.” In this series opener, Shaka, the son of Zulu chief Senzanghakona, struggles with his brother Sigujana over the succession and is eventually forced into exile. Shaka recovers under the leadership of northern neighbor King Dingiswayo, and his skills in battle earn him the reputation of a wise and accomplished warrior. Yet as tribes vie to control new territories and imprison soldiers for eventual European trade, he recognizes that he must return home and assume his responsibility to lead the Zulu.
This graphic novel admirably allows its hero to retain flaws and scars that keep him squarely in the realm of the human. Molver’s clean panels also emphasize this, advancing the story in well-paced sequences that balance action with calm. In an era when the stories of colonial exploitation and European enslavement overdetermine how global audiences encounter African stories, Molver and O’Connor forthrightly center this tale on the struggles among the indigenous tribes and nations as they seek to maintain their lands and lifeways while still acknowledging that they, too, have a confluence with the “dark days.” Several pages of backmatter offer historical and cultural context, a glossary, discussion questions, and a pronunciation guide. A worthy introduction that offers a young Anglophone audience entry into a legend of Africa without the annoyance of overtranslation and with refreshingly three-dimensional characters. (Graphic historical fiction. 12-adult) ~Kirkus~
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW – In a land beset by political turmoil and bloody conflict comes the epic saga of Shaka. Ousted by one of his chief father’s jealous wives and raised in exile, his destiny is sealed through allegiance to a rival chief. Responding to threats from expanding slave trade in southern Africa, Shaka consolidates a new kingdom through warfare, mediation, and shrewd diplomacy. Deftly written and superbly illustrated by Luke Molver, “Shaka Rising: A Legend of the Warrior Prince” is a truly extraordinary and entertaining graphic novel that will decidedly prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library graphic novel collections for readers ages 16 to 86. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “Shaka Rising: A Legend of the Warrior Prince” is also available in a paperback edition (9781946498984, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99). ~Midwest Book Review~
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – In the early 19th century, as Americans moved west and Napoleon Bonaparte bestrode Europe, a young Zulu warrior was rising to prominence in southern Africa. His name was Shaka, and such were his gifts as a military and political tactician that he was able to build a small Zulu chiefdom into a kingdom that he ruled until his murder in 1828. It endures today. Read more here.