She Would Be King

She Would Be King

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...

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Title:She Would Be King
Author:Wayetu Moore
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Edition Language:English

She Would Be King Reviews

  • Stacey A.  Prose and Palate

    No words. Incredible. Review to come.

  • BookOfCinz

    I am not sure why there isn't a bigger hype surrounding Wayetu Moore's debut novel

    because it is absolutely enthralling. While I don't like comparing books, for some reason this book reminded me of how I felt reading

    by Yaa Gyasi. I felt a pounding in my chest and fluttering in my stomach as I asked myself while reading this book-

    . I was reminded of how I felt when I was younger and I opened a book I know

    I am not sure why there isn't a bigger hype surrounding Wayetu Moore's debut novel

    because it is absolutely enthralling. While I don't like comparing books, for some reason this book reminded me of how I felt reading

    by Yaa Gyasi. I felt a pounding in my chest and fluttering in my stomach as I asked myself while reading 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

    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.

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Darkowaa

    !!! full review -

    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.

  • Dominique

    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

    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.

    😂😂😂😂

    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!

  • Will

    3.5, rounded up.

  • 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.

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