The Dancers of Mulukau
By Charles Saunders
Sword & Soul Media
Review by Ron Fortier
Fantasy adventure writer Charles Saunders is often compared to Robert E. Howard as his Imaro is very much as strong a barbarian hero as is Conan; the difference obviously being that Imago’s world is not that of Howard’s Hyborian era but rather that of Africa’s mythological past. Since the 1970s his tales of Imaro have thrilled legions of readers and continue to do so to this day.
Still, if Howard’s Conan had the fiesty Red Sonja, one would fully expect Saunders to offer us a black female warrior to co-exist in this particular setting. Several years ago he did just that in bringing to life the amazing, beautiful and truly mesmerizing Dossouye; a native of the kingdom of Abomey, where women warriors are as prominent as their male counterparts. Then Saunders went Imaro one better by giving this sexy, independent amazon a very strange pet; Gbo the war-bull. From their first appearance in print, this duo has fired the imagination of fantasy lovers and rightly so.
Now comes this full length novel that takes the pair to a foreign country far from their homeland. Dossouye is hired as a bodyguard, along with a troop of male mercenaries, to accompany a group of magical entertainers known as the Dancers of Mulukau on their journey to the city Khutuma. In Khutuma, the well water is contains special rejuvenating properties which provide the people with long, abnormally healthy lives. Yet at times the wells run dry and only the magic of the Dancers can replenish them; thus the urgency of their mission.
But the trip across a barren desert is fraught with dangers both natural and supernatural; the latter because of the Dancers physical condition. They are all hermaphrodites; possessing both male and female organs. Whereas the majority of people from the neighboring kingdoms do not concern themselves with this fact, one particular group of mountain dwellers known as the Walaq are very much aware of it. The Walaq are religious zealots whose extremist ideology sees the Dancers as freaks of nature who, according to their deity, must be completely exterminated from the face of the world.
As you can see by this very delicate social subplot, this isn’t your typical sword and sorcery fare. Which comes as no surprise if you’ve read any of Saunders past works. Charles Saunders is an insightful, gifted adventure writer who uses his story-telling talents to not only entertain his readers, but to enlighten them in the process; to dispel the curtains of ignorant prejudices that still encumber our society and continues to perpetuate needless suffering and pain on others all for the sake of some subjective “norm” that truly doesn’t exist.
“Dossouye –The Dancers of Mulukau,” is a fast moving, thrilling and original fantasy adventure that breathes fresh air into this long established and often times too familiar genre. His writing is flawless, his characters captivating and in the end he delivers a truly satisfying reading experience like few others working in the field today. And here’s my prediction, gleaned from being one of his staunches fans from the start, no one will be able to read this book without, upon finishing it, having the urge to go out and collect all his other books. Do yourselves a favor, don’t fight the urge.