THE GUNS OF DARKNESS by Ann. Schlee

THE GUNS OF DARKNESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The complex characterization of 19th century Abyssinian tyrant Tewodros, who inspired affection as well as fear from the European missionaries he alternately honored and imprisoned, is an impressive accomplishment in the midst of an otherwise lugubrious novel. The subtlety with which Schlee makes exotic Ethiopia -- and its majestic, petulant ruler -- both recognizably familiar and intriguingly mysterious does not extend to the fictional, half-English narrator Louisa Bell who observes the humiliation and self-deceptions of her brother-in-law Herr Waldheimer when he's forced to build cannons that will be used against his own rescuers. Louisa's loyalty to Waldheimer remains steadfast throughout, but otherwise she's a cipher who plays no significant role in the rise and fall of the Europeans with whom she lives and who moves numbly from crisis to crisis. Schlee's sure grasp of period and place and her undidactic approach to the personalities and politics involved in this confrontation between traditional Africa and European technology mark her a cut above the average -- but most of her audience will feel cheated out of the resolutions, both dramatic and psychological, which seem to slip by offstage while Louisa observes unobtrusively, grows older, and waits passively for peace.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1974
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atheneum