Tuesday, April 12, 2011


By Ron Fortier

IMARO :The Naama War
By Charles Saunders
Sword & Soul Media
331 pages
Available Only at (

There are times when a review must, by necessity, become more than mere words praising or critiquing a literary work.  When a reviewer recognizes a monumental injustice, then there arises a moral obligation to sound a clarion call in the hopes of shedding light on the issue.  This is such a case.  Read on.

Over twenty-five years ago, writer Charles Saunders created a new sword and sorcery hero whose roots and adventures were set in the mythological past of the African continent.  For the first time ever, a writer had eschewed the dominant overshadowing umbrella of Western-European culture for an untapped history that was totally unique to its corner of the world.  From this unbelievably rich untapped mythological tapestry came  Imaro, a mixed blood outcast raised by the grasslands warrior people known as the Ilyassai after his mother abandoned him.  He grows up bitter and resentful, his own salvation being that he is bigger, stronger and faster than anyone in the village. Once having achieved manhood, he leaves the tribe to seek out his destiny and perhaps learn the reasons why his mother gave him up as a child.

In the subsequent short stories and novels, Saunders took us on a fantastic journey through this rich and original African landscape.  Along the way we discovered Imaro was in fact an unwilling pawn in a cosmic struggle between the forces of good, represented by the Cloud Striders, and evil, alien beings known as the Mashtaan.  For centuries, the Mashtaan had been manipulating their earthly agents, wizards known as the Erriten, towards their ultimate goal of ripping apart the dimensional barrier between their world and ours, thus allowing them access to invade Earth.  To stop them, the Cloud Striders set in play two remarkable humans, both touched by their celestial powers while still in the womb; the first was the sorceress queen Kandisa and the second, Imaro. 

As he states in his afterword, Saunders initially planned to tell this saga as a trilogy, but the more he wrote of Imaro’s travels and adventures, the more the epic scope of his story continued to swell until he had no recourse but to continue on to a fourth, concluding chapter.  This writer is damn happy he did.  At the end of book three, “Imaro – The Trail of Bohu,” Imaro’s wife and young son had been brutally murdered by the demigod fiend, Bohu, working as an agent of the Eritten.  Incensed by the crime, Imaro, along with a few loyal allies, sets out to hunt down Bohu and destroy him.

It was then that Kandisa revealed to him that all the hardships of his life had been orchestrated by the Mashtaan because of their fear of him.  A war was coming that would encompass all the known kingdoms in a final contest between to the gods with Imaro being the deciding factor.  Imaro’s anger was only increased by this revelation that he had been manipulated as a mere pawn, that he was not the true master of his own fate.  It was only Kandisa’s heartfelt persuasions that convinced him to reluctantly accept his role in the coming conflagration. Still he continued his hunt for Bohu.  By the end of this third volume, he and his party found themselves in the land of Maguvurunde ruled by the powerful  knosi (king) Mkwayo and his beautiful queen, Katisa.  It is then revealed that they are Imaro’s parents.  Talk about a cliffhanger ending.

“IMARO – The Naama War,”  picks up where the last book ended and quickly begins the final events of this ground-breaking epic.  Coming to grips with his new found family and heritage, the stoic Imaro begins to accept the supernatural abilities the Cloud Striders had bestowed upon him. He gradually assumes responsibility befitting his new role as a prince.  With each new conflict he is drawn like a magnet to the cataclysmic confrontation Kandisa had predicted between the great armies and the Northern Highland and those of the Eritten controlled lowlands.  Imaro takes his place alongside his father, warrior-chieftain uncle and courageous cousin to lead their forces and in doing so accepts his destiny.

Saunders writes the most gripping, complex and thrilling battles sequences since Homer’s tales of the Trojan War.  His pen wields legions of humans and their nightmarish creature allies with a feverish skill that is unequalled in fantasy adventure and in the middle of it all, is Imaro, the greatest warrior ever to take up spear and shield and pit himself against the forces of the evil.  But like all great stories, Imaro’s victory comes with a price that cuts deep into his soul and leaves him spiritually wounded.  Though he saves mankind, he ironically remains the fates’ most tragic victim.

Charles Saunders is Robert E. Howard’s one true literary heir.  He is the finest fantasy adventure writer of the past twenty-five years.  This is no exaggeration.  No other fantasist on the bestseller lists today, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, George R.R. Martin, etc. etc. comes close to equaling the raw power of his stories, his sweeping imagination and the grace and grandeur of his tales.  And yet he is relegated to self-publishing his own material because no publisher in either America or Canada has been smart enough to sign him to a contract.  Rather it is his hundreds of fans, on-line reviewers and true aficionados of the genre who recognize his greatness and continue to support his career.

When Saunders first created Imaro, his earlier books were published by DAW paperbacks.  This was the early mid 70s and sadly the books, for whatever reason, failed to find a large audience.  Maybe readers simply weren’t ready for a black fantasy hero. It is this reviewer’s hope that today that is no longer the issue, but rather the world at large is simply not aware of this magnificent epic and it has gotten lost on the larger digital stage.  It is high time it was rediscovered.  Both “Imaro – the Trail of Bohu” and “Imaro – The Naama War” are available at (  I would urge my readers not only to purchase both immediately, but to also tell all their friends and associates who love great fantasy adventure.  Maybe together we can bring Imaro back to the prominence he and his creator truly deserve.