Dossouye by Charles R. Saunders
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dossouye, a female version of Imaro in many ways; just as entertaining. A solid entry in the Sword & Soul subgenre by the man who started it, Charles R. Saunders. Highly recommended for fantasy fiction readers.
Sword & Soul & Availability: Charles R. Saunders led the creation of the Sword & Soul sub-genre (under Fantasy). My previous review of Saunder’s more famous, male character Imaro details more about his writing history. In short, he was compelled to create myths stemming from Africa rather than the typical European-centric standard. He spins a good tale, and his perspective does feel fresh. Like Imaro, Dossouye is a essentially a lone warrior (she does have a trusty mount called Gbo, a war buffalo!). Do not expect elves or party/fellowships. Do expect to experience strong mix of sorcery/magic, creatures (supernatural and wild), and lots of fighting. Some of his books are difficult to track down, but they are worth it...and... he has been writing many short stories (those count too for Dossouyediscussion...so if you can't find the books, look into the anthologies he contributed for....list below).
Dossouye Source Material:
This novel combines six tales originally published (in different form) are combined into chapters:
Amazons! 1979 (Jessica Amanda Salmonson)
Sword and Sorceress, 1984 (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
Sword and Sorceress II, 1985 (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
Sword and Sorceress III, 1986 (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
Dark Matter, 2000 (Sheree Renée Thomas)
Dark Matter II: Reading the Bones 2004 (Sheree Renee Thomas)
Chapter List and some notes (not spoilers)
1 – “Agbewe’s Sword”: Two cultures, the Abanti and Abomea, battle with sorcery and buffalo mounts. Dossouye is introduced, chosen via a bokono dream, and eventually exiled in a unique way.
2 – “Gimmile’s Songs”: A chance encounter with cursed magician/musician and thieves that follow him.
3— “Shiminege’s Mask”: Someone draws the short straw to be sacrificed to a sichi (akin to a immortal vampire?)..who were destroyed mostly by Dossouye’s ancestors and war bulls
4— “Yahimba’s Choice”: Tarusi (realized forms of mens’ fear of girls not getting circumcised) take center stage. Best story in the set. With Saunders already infusing black history into dark fantasy, with this collection he strived to go further by taking on a woman’s character. From the outset, I had in mind doing some type of Bechdel-Test (one measure of how well women are portrayed in movie scripts in relation to male dominance). For this, I mentally noted how much Dossouye was just a “chick-in-chainmail”; ie how often did her gender really play a role in the story and not just be easily replaced/switched for a male stand-in. Although female issues are mentioned throughout, it wasn’t until this chapter did Saunder’s hit his stride across the board: African culture & myths, Dossouye’s gender, and classic Sword & Sorcery (battles with supernatural) all synchronize.
5 – “Marwe’s Forest:” A shapechanger confronts/seduces Dossouye
6 – “Obenga’s Drum:” Embiti (pygmy/dwarves) are saved by Dossouye, but then she is injured and traverses another bokono dream
The short stories flow as connected chapters, but the publication/creation history still affect the read. Saunders has a narrative voice that leans toward “telling” rather than “showing” but the plots are full of twists and milieu so unique that they read fast. Dossouye’s main motivation/choices stems from a culture around associating one’s three souls with feti trees. Without the trees living, one may turn into a zhumbi (a soulless Abomean). To achieve a 5-star, this critical relationship needed to be fleshed out earlier (or “shown” more). That said there is a sequel, and Dossouye evolved into a more realistic character with each story. The next one should be a great read too.
There is at least one eBook version of Imaro available via Lulu...and ~$20USD version of most of his library; there are two pages.
1) The spotlight page for Charles R Saunders has most (link)
2) The page for Charles Saunders (no "R") has Dossouye available (link)
Short stories: From his website Saunder’s author page we can get a list of Charles R. Saunders's short stories and the collection they appeared in.
2017 and beyond This April, Sword and Soul guru Milton J. Davis revealed that “A few years ago Charles Saunders shared with me an excellent story he wrote set in the world of Imaro titled 'The Return of Sundiata. Just recently he revealed to me that he has written a collection of such stories, tentatively titled 'Nyumbani Tales.' It is my honor and privilege to announce that I will be publishing this historic collection this year! Stay tuned for more details. Sword and Soul forever!"
Saunder's Sword & Soul portfolio
The Quest for Cush
The Trail of Bohu
The Naama War
Dossouye: the Dancers of Mulukau
View all my reviews