Born in 1787, Shaka, the bastard son of the Zulu chief Senzangakona, is taunted unmercifully. At six, he fights back and is banished together with his mother, Nandi. Shaka resolves to seek revenge by becoming a great warrior. Through many twists he eventually becomes chief of the Zulu and hammers the miniscule Zulu army into a fighting force. In several great battles,
Shaka shows his military genius: not just his grasp of tactics but of espionage, deception, guerilla warfare, logistics, training, morale, discipline, cohesion, and flexibility - all the elements of war taught in today's military colleges. So effective were Shaka's methods that in 1879, fifty years after his death, Zulu spears wiped out a British regiment invading Zululand. They were among Queen Victoria's finest, equipped with breech-loading rifles, cannon, and Gatling guns. Kind of like the Taliban annihilating a regiment of U.S. Marines.
Shaka understands how to lead people, how to gain their trust and loyalty; he institutes the rule of law that is fair and just, excepting nobody. Harsh with one hand, Shaka is generous with the other. Those he conquers become equals among equals - he never enslaves the vanquished. Master of battle, Shaka believes war to be wasteful. But if a chief chooses war, it is "impi ebomvu": war to the death of every enemy warrior.
Although true to published events and dates, this book goes deep into the minds of each player. It is non-stop action and intrigue. And rich with Shakespearean characters: Zwide, brutal king of the evil empire; Ntombazi, queen of the skulls; Matiwane, scheming hunch-back chief, an 'African Richard III'; Dingiswayo, visionary man of peace; Mgobozi, Shaka's tough, joking sidekick; Nandi, mother who flaunts the rules; Shayimpi, who lives to fight and laugh.