The Shadow King

LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2020

Maaza Mengiste

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Hardback ISBN 9781838851163) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020, this is an utterly captivating novel about female strength. Set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King casts a light on the women soldiers written out of African history

LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2020

‘DEVASTATING’ Marlon James, ‘A MODERN CLASSIC’ Andrew Sean Greer, ‘INCREDIBLE’ Lemn Sissay, ‘BRILLIANT’ Salman Rushdie, ‘MAGNIFICIENT’ Aminatta Forna, ‘EPIC’ Mary Morris, ‘WONDERFUL’ Laila Lalami, ‘UNFORGETTABLE’ The Times, ‘REMARKABLE’ New York Times, ‘A MASTERPIECE’ Washington Post

ETHIOPIA. 1935.

With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilise his strongest men before the Italians invade.

Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms. But how could she have predicted her own personal war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers?

The Shadow King is a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.


The Shadow King is a beautiful and devastating work; of women holding together a world ripping itself apart. They will slip into your dreams and overtake your memories”
Marlon James

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”Unforgettable. I suspect I won’t read anything more moving this year”
the Times, Book Of The Month

”Lyrical, remarkable … Breathtakingly skillful … The reader feels … In the steady hands of a master … Hirut [is] as indelible and compelling a hero as any I’ve read in years”
new York Times

“With epic sweep and dignity, Mengiste has lifted this struggle into legend, along with the women who fought in it. Beautiful, horrifying, elegant and haunted, The Shadow King is a modern classic”
Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning Author Of Less

The Shadow King is incredible. I’ve read nothing like it before. There is war, love, betrayal, history and the present day wrapped in the hearts and minds of complex characters. Maaza Mengiste rises as Toni Morrison rests. The baton has been passed and taken deftly”
Lemn Sissay


Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Fulbright Scholar and professor in the MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation programme at Queens College, she is the author of The Shadow King, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, named one of the Guardian’s Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her work can be found in the New Yorker, Granta, and the New York Times, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

@MaazaMengiste | maazamengiste.com



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