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Wizard of the Crow.

* Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o Pantheon Books, August 2006 $30, ISBN 0-375-42248-X

It's dangerous to mix politics and sorcery. The combination is always sure to produce a most heady brew. Murogi wa Kagogo (Wizard of the Crow), the first novel in 20 years from Kenyan literary legend Ngugi wa Thiong'o, is exactly that.

The tome, quite possibly Thiong'o's magnum opus, is more than seven hundred pages long. Thiong'o started working on this novel, really four books in one, in 1997. Initially written in his first language, Gikuyu (and later translated into English by him), the story is set during "our times" in the fictional African country of Aburiria.

When Aburiria's ruler (a composite of Kenya's ex-President Daniel arap Moi, Uganda's Idi Amin and Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko who gives a new definition to the phrase "God complex") cooks up a plan to build the world's tallest building, bad things happen.

Soon a great battle between good and evil ensues. Wizard of the Crow is full of vibrant characters and the plot twists for which Thiong'o is known. And there's an underlying message that will keep you thinking long after the book ends. One of the main plot threads is the rise of central characters Kamiti (his name means "of woods) and Nyawira (her name means "of work") as the Wizard of the Crow, a creature many believe to have two faces, one female and the other male. The heart of the story concerns globalization, corruption, the power of stories, the power of the people and love.

After Thiong'o's novel Matigari was published in 1986, the Moi regime issued a warrant for the arrest of a character in the book. If not already a legend in Kenya, the main character of the Wizard of the Crow has all the potential of becoming yet another one in that country. And with the publication of the English version of the novel, the character may become a legend in the rest of the world--for he/she lives far beyond the pages of the book.

--Reviewed by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is the author of Zahrah the Windseeker (Houghton Mifflin, 2005).
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Author:Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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