This book is unique among many others in African history. This is the story of Shaka translated directly from Zulu oral history into English. I felt as if I were in the time of Shaka in a way that I never felt from reading other histories of Africa. This book made me realized that my perception of Africa needed looking into. I always approached books about African history as if I were going to a place and time that is inherently alien. Then I read "Shaka," and because it was the current events, or at least recent history, to the historians of the day, the events and characters are reported as the stories of men and women, and I realized that I was not reading "African" history -- I was reading World history, and there is only one history.
This story stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other great first-hand accounts of history and warfare for military accuracy (not that I've attempted to re-trace the route of Shaka's campaigns for accuracy!): the Pelopennesian War, the Punic Wars, the campaigns of Napoleon.
This history, insofar as it is verbal and just happened to be transcribed, is also a very long poem, and the instances of poetic adornment are many, but bear them! for they are as much a part of the story as what they describe. And don't skip over the reflections on the application of the power of the king and political philosophy. For the non-African, these are essential to beginning to understand African (or at least Zulu) aesthetics and philosophy.
A must-read (not just a must-OWN, by the way) for the casual student or scholar of history, African or otherwise.