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  • Writer's pictureMilton Davis

Sword and Soul Griots

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

Griots by Natiq Jalil

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that one of my writing passions is Sword and Soul. Created by sword and sorcery icon Charles Saunders, Sword and Soul is basically Sword and Sorcery/Epic Fantasy based on African history, culture and traditions. In this blog I'd like to bring your attention to Sword and Soul novels by authors other than myself and Charles Saunders. I'm sharing those that I've read; you may have your own books to add to the list. So let's get started.

Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade

An exciting Sword and Soul tale by Balogun Ojetade, Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors. Desperate to marry off his beautiful but "tomboyish" duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way. Will the warriors band together against this evil?

Balogun Ojetade is a renaissance man; author, Afrikan marital arts expert, Yoruba priest, screenplay writer and film director. All his talents are on display in this exciting story. It's full of action and folklore, which makes it a great read.

Tales From The Sands of Time: Volume I (Songs of the Sunya) by Adam H.C. Myrie

The Songs of the Sunya is a series of poems, short stories,and epic novels about a realm called the “Sunya”. The history of this realm spans thousands of years, according to the history of the peoples of his region. Through the ages there have been many migrations, wars, city-states, kingdoms and empires, all of which have risen to prominence in their day before being buried beneath the sands of time. The stories follow the Sunsha people in all their tribes and clans through burning deserts, lush grasslands, dense jungles, high mountains and more as they sing, fight, love, live and die by the grace of their gods and the points of their spears. Follow them as they recite poems about their great heroes, exalt their gods, and weep for the fallen. Tales from the Sands of Time Volume I is a collection of some of the most influential stories in the lore of the Sunya, told by the people whose very history is woven by them.

Adam Myrie's Sword and Soul tales are based on the history and culture of Ethiopia. It's a collection filled with wonder, fighting and tragedy.

Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor

Amina is heir apparent to the throne of Zazzau and must prove herself worthy of the crown. As foreign invaders close in on them, she is the only thing standing between her people and their destruction. Caught in a web of prophecies and intrigue, she must defend Zazzau, but cannot do so if she wants to prevent the future that was foretold. She did not seek war; it found her. Unwilling to be the plaything of gods or men and determined to take control of her own destiny, she tracks down the god of war himself. But has her destiny already been written? Can she choose her own fate? And can she protect her kingdom, no matter what price she must ultimately pay? Because, gods always want something in return.

Queen of Zazzau chronicles the journey of real-life West African queen, Amina of Zazzau. The Songhai Empire is waning. While the Kanem-Bornu still dominate a vast swath of the African continent, smaller kingdoms are rising to prominence through conquest and expansion. Foreign invasion is imminent and Amina must defend her people. Does she have the power to protect their sovereignty or will she lead her people to their downfall?

J.S. Emuakpor takes the real life story of Queen Amina and infuses it with loads of action, spirituality and romance. I love the way she intertwines these qualities into a seamless narrative.

The Kishi by Antoine Bandele

A pacifist monk. A threatening darkness. An innocent village hanging in the balance.

Hoping to escape his dark past, Amana travels to the great village of Bajok in search of redemption. The day he arrives, a young woman is slain and the locals point their fingers at the new arrival.

Amana must overcome the village's trepidation. A demon is on the loose and he fears more will die. The solution is obvious—a swift and brutal counterattack. 

But his vow of peace is the last virtue that remains in his tattered soul.

Is his personal peace more valuable than the lives of the innocent, or will Amana be swallowed by the darkness that has hounded him his entire life?

Antoine Bandele takes a creature from African mythology, the kishi, and builds an engaging Sword and Soul novel around it. Well worth the read.

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The Omehi are surrounded by enemies that want them dead. They will not be easy prey.

One in twenty-five hundred Omehi women are Gifted, wielding fragments of their Goddess' power and capable of controlling the world's most destructive weapon - Dragons. One in a hundred of their men has blood strong enough for the Gifted to infuse with magic, turning these warriors into near unstoppable colossi.

The rest are bred to fight, ferocious soldiers fated to die in the endless war. Tau Tafari, an Omehi commoner, wants more than this, but his life is destroyed when he's betrayed by those he was born to serve.

Now, with too few Gifted left and the Omehi facing genocide, Tau cares only for revenge.

Following an unthinkable path, he will become the greatest swordsman to ever live, dying a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill three of his own people.

The Rage of Dragons is an action-filled saga of revenge interwoven within a story of a people trying to survive threats from without and within. Winter does an excellent job of worldbuilding and storytelling.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers―and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably heard of an/or read Children of Blood and Bone. It's Sword and Soul in Young Adult guise, loosely based Yoruba culture and spirituality. It's a good read, with myriad of characters on a journey that will keep you reading from beginning to end.

The Wolf Queen by Cerece Renee Murphy

To fight for her future, she must first discover the magic of her past

Once great and powerful sorcerers, the Amasiti were hunted to the brink of extinction by the Hir and his followers. For four hundred years, their legacy faded from memory waiting for the hope of Aferi to be renewed…

In the Land of Yet

At the edge of the Forbidden Forest

A young woman lives alone.

Forced to fend for herself after the brutal murder of her family, Ameenah Yemini has made a life for herself as a master tanner and farmer, only venturing into the world to earn her living then return to the safety and seclusion of her home.

Until a chance encounter brings her work to the attention of the powerful Hir

And her careful life begins to unravel.

Drawn to the hidden magic that lingers in everything she touches, the new Hir insists on having her for himself, using the people around her to force Ameenah into his grasp.

When she realizes that her greatest enemy may hold the key to a secret she thought lost to her forever, Ameenah is determined to reclaim her stolen past. But, at what cost? As an ancient power waits to be unleashed, Ameenah's choices will make the difference between awakening a new magic or delivering it into the hands of evil.

Another great tale that draws on African culture as its foundation, Cerece gives us a story of a woman trying to protect her people while coming aware of her latent powers. Great storytelling, magic and action waits for you in this one.

And this is my far. There are a fee more intriguing titles out there that I would consider Sword and Soul, but I haven't read them yet. Whether you choose to call it Sword and Soul, African Fantasy or African Sword and Sorcery, all these storied use African culture and history as a foundation to tell some amazing tales. All this bodes well for a genre that up until this point has been rooted in European history and tropes. The stories are familiar yet different, infusing fresh blood and new readers into an established genre, which can only mean good things for all involved.

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