This haunting first novel is steeped in African folklore and brimming with the class, ethnic and religious struggles of pre-colonial Africa. Aster, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of a feudal lord dares to love one of her father's slaves. Gudu is a deep thinker, a gentle soul born into the lowest stratum of a brutal society. A captivating storyteller, he is among the most prized possessions of Aster's father, Count Ashenafi.
When Gudu and Aster's love is discovered, Gudu barely escapes with his life. He finds refuge and acceptance among Count Ashenafi's enemies, eventually leading them in war against the Count. All the while, the two lovers still dream of being together. Gudu builds a mansion for Aster in his adopted city, while Aster plots to avoid a forced marriage to a man of her father's choosing.
The middle of the book is slowed down somewhat by lengthy and tedious accounts of Gudu's exploits after he joins the Count's enemies.
Through a spare and lyrical prose, Mr. Mezlekia weaves a deeply felt tale that occasionally surprises us with its mythic occurrences, not the least of which involves the ultimate fate of the heroine.