This is a book-review of Romantic Warrior by Frank Akenten.  It was done by an English professor from an HBCU in Alabama.  I am so appreciative of him for doing this review of the book.  It is a blessing to have a review done by someone with of his caliber.  I actually had to look up a word in the dictionary to make sure of its meaning. lol.  "Antediluvian" means "ancient times" in essence. Ha.  Here is the review below.

Romantic Warrior by Frank Akenten. Montgomery, Artistry Employs, 2009. 203 pp. $25.00


    In the second half of Frank Akenten’s Romantic Warrior, an ancestor spirit, upon viewing a penitent Chief Priest, states “Hmmm. If my lover bowed down like that before I died, I would have stayed in the body of my birth (154).”  Thus, we have a love match, or rather a series of sexual encounters, that transgresses spiritual boundaries.  Billed as “America’s First African Fantasy” what is presented here is a playful and intricately detailed novel in which absolutely anything can happen.  Magic, and an examination of how to deal with loss, are at the heart of this epic. 

     When the ancient kingdom of Jenna is thrown into political strife, the true nature of African civilization is explored, without the preconceptions and stereotypes that developed centuries later.  In an era prior to modern Christianity, folklore dominates this narrative of a young woman’s journey from the countryside to the capital city where magic is practiced and the rules of time and space do not apply.  The notion of a young person in their late teens or early twenties growing lonesome on the farm has been with us for a very long time.  The heroine, Twela Burundi, is described as a “boat pulling away from the seashore” and this move away from her people is very unpopular (vi).  Not only does she put distance between herself and her family, she also must accept the fact that Akibo, the man she is betrothed to, has died before they have the opportunity to wed.  Twela, as a result of this tragedy, is reluctant to take risks.  Romantic Warrior is as much about how she must fight to heal as it is about this civilization’s success on the battlefield with the neighboring nation of Mali in 30 BC.

     This fantasy approaches Africans as masters of mechanical engineering.  There is a precision inherent with their technology that rivals the intellectual advances of the enlightenment seventeen centuries later.  These are people who could have built The Pyramids of Giza.  The king of the nation authorizes the construction of a new city by the seashore, the establishment of a new trade route to the Far East, and the formation of a trade route by sea, which complements the elegantly advanced ships “constructed mainly of African Blackwood (58).”

     There is a lushness and lavishness to Akenten’s writing style.  Every bath gel, every pure and cotton blended fabric, and every precious shining diamond is described with intricate care.  Like a watchmaker, he meticulously describes the physical characteristics Twela witnesses as Temple Curator.   This adds texture to Romantic Warrior and grounds a novel that, all too often, requires that the reader suspend his or her disbelief.  It is not uncommon for figures to change shape, fly through the atmosphere or converse with ancestor spirits.  However, the truly compelling component is Twela’s struggle to redirect her emotional life and find a balance that proves to be more elusive than her professional success in the capitol city of Jenne.  Today, a person would attempt to bounce back from heartbreak with the support, care, and compassion of family and friends.  That said, in this antediluvian society, her psychological welfare is entrusted to the Priests, Priestesses, and Temple Guards that she works with.  Her spiritual wellbeing, both “body and soul” comes from the individuals she works with (70).”  When Twela is faced with trauma and that trauma is exacerbated, her parenting does not come from blood relations.  She is awoken one morning and told, “The temple will take care of you.  Healing hearts is what they do best” (160).  When it comes to increasing her strength so that she may let go of the past, the kingdom of Jenne devotes itself to this complicated task with an efficiency that any modern legal entity would envy.





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