Zimbabwe Falcon covers the period between 1888 and 1923 in the region between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers.
Here in ancient times, the descendants of the High Priest of Jerusalem built the Great Zimbabwe as their capital. It was the only great civilization south of the Sahara, and nearby were the ancient gold mines of Solomon. Into this land marched the Rhodesian Pioneers in 1890 to challenge Lobengula, King of the Ndebele nation. This Zulu tribe had only sixty years earlier seized it from the Shona. Into this mix of different tribes and cultures are added the Boers;the white tribe of Africa.
These various groups are involved in many armed conflicts, and alliances are constantly changing. But in the end the Pioneers will prevail and create a country that will survive into the twentieth century.
Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers’ Favorite
The Zimbabwe Falcon by David Maring is a historical novel based in the time of the push northwards from the Cape in South Africa to realize Cecil Rhodes’ dream of securing for Britain a swathe through Africa to Cairo. We meet the Howard girls as they arrive by sea at the Cape and then continue north to Messina, the interior, where their parents have secured land. In time, both girls meet young men who are closely connected to Rhodes, Jameson, Selous and other leaders of the time. They are involved in the Matabele Wars, when the Ndebele people rose up against the white settlers and also practiced genocide against the Shona.
I was attracted by the title, The Zimbabwe Falcon, as I love books about Africa and I’ve seen one of the remaining stone birds at the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. The story of the early settlers is told from the point of view of the English, the Afrikaners, French Huguenots and an African, Joswa Kimbo, a member of the Lemba tribe. Their fortunes are interwoven against the backdrop of the early days of the colonization of Rhodesia and the Boer War in South Africa. I loved the book, although there were a lot of battle scenes in the latter part and I would have preferred more information about those characters I had grown to love. I think the author has done a lot of research into the place and period and incorporated this well into the story, such as Rhodes ordering the delivery of one of the falcons to Groote Schuur. Well worth reading.
“It took the sharp point of spears pressed against their throats to bring them to life.”
As the 20th century begins to close, the expansion of the British and Dutch into southern Africa continues to thrive after generations of pioneers have turned Cape Town into a bustling urban environment and continue to sprawl into the interior. Using a mixture of historical details and fictional storytelling, the book tells the story of several people, both native and transplant, who live their lives adjacent to history in the making of what would become Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe.
Kinsey Marshell’s ambitions of being a successful Belfast merchant were wiped away by a plague that ended the lives of his family members and left him needing to make a fresh start. On the trip to Cape Town, he attracts the eye of Stacey Howard, the daughter of a successful cattle rancher who emigrated to Africa years earlier and is now sending for his daughters to join him, his wife, and newborn son. Gideon Mehring is a Boer exploring the land and collecting its history in what he hopes will be a successful manuscript. As his son is finally of age to accompany him on his journeys, he returns to the domain of King Lobengula of the Ndebele, hopeful that he can win the ruler’s favor as he did with his late father and be granted permission to explore and document these otherwise unknown lands. Intersecting the paths of Gideon and Charles Howard, Stacey’s father, is Joswa, a descendant of a tribe that in ancient times was composed of exiled Jews from the time of Solomon, searching for a home before building Great Zimbabwe. Joswa was sent to learn how to read and write, thus being able to preserve the oral tradition of his tribe. And now that he is old enough, he too wants to explore the Ndebele lands and beyond to learn the history of his people and share it with them. As tensions mount and the conflicts of conquering inhabited land as well as progress versus tradition begin to swell, the makings of what will become Rhodesia will be founded in blood and broken treaties.
Using the history of Rhodesia as its setting, Maring brings together multiple perspectives of the same powder keg to tell a powerful, gripping story of opportunity, warfare, double-crossing, and exploitation. By sticking with mostly the same characters from the war between the Rhodesian pioneers and the Ndebele all the way past the conclusion of World War I, these fictional characters intertwine with the true stories that led to the formation of Rhodesia and provide a layered, well-sculpted perspective on those events. The inclusion of maps, photographs, and timelines gives the uninformed reader more of the background on the setting of this story and the history of Rhodesia, making this a book that is as interesting and entertaining as it is informative.The characters that Maring brings to life in these chapters are compelling and are often driven by motivations both made public and kept private. Religious affiliations, plans for expansion and warfare, defense of existing conquests, or just plain monetary greed bubble under the surface of the primary players, creating tension and nuance as the peace between and among the settlers and natives of southern Africa dissolves.
The author’s background as a historian provides the appropriate details and narration necessary to bring the cities, plains, ruins, and jungles to life. Roughly the first third of the book is composed of situations of the author’s design, introducing the primary fictional characters of the book with small encounters with real-life influencers peppered throughout. Once the conflicts and wars begin, that history takes a more prominent role as the engine of the story, and its characters are left to respond to events that took place over a century ago in the real world. The transition is seamless and creates a strong balanced narrative rather than a jarring flip between fiction and nonfiction. Readers with an interest in a sometimes confusing or forgotten chapter of relatively recent history will devour this story, but it is written with enough care and consideration not to exclude a reader with no prior knowledge of Rhodesia. The result of the author’s painstaking efforts is a story that is exciting and a delight to read.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review