The concept of Freedonia and this alternate world the story takes place in is an interesting one. Essentially, in this world the Haitian Revolution spread beyond Haiti and allowed the black population of the American South to drive back their oppressors and form a new country called Freedonia. This country is flourishing and while very young, is starting to take an active part in this world. In many ways, it’s the kind of world I could have only ever hoped for but we all know it’s not what we have. Ultimately, that is the biggest strength of this novel. It fills you up with renewed optimism and faith in your people being able to do great things. I know Mr. Davis doesn’t necessarily write with the political in mind, but I think it still manages to leak through if ever so subtly. A world where blacks actually get to command their own destiny without fear of being stomped down for it….the idea seems far away and unattainable when we look at our present reality. That’s why we need stories that allow us to imagine better.
Of course, the meat of this story is a lot of fun. It’s an action adventure set in the backdrop of this new, but still familiar world. Famara Keita and Ezekiel Culpepper are the main characters and they take us through a romping adventure that stretches from Atlanta to London to the legendary city of Timbuktu. It’s amazing the amount of pride I felt while reading this book. We weren’t limited to the role of criminal or dead beat or scary muscle like we so often are in the media. Both of these were no pushovers by any means, but they were nuanced and had many sides to their personalities. Ezekiel may have been a great sharpshooter, but all he longed for was some peace at home. Famara could probably beat you down with his pinky toe, but friendship and loyalty mattered more to him than anything else. They become quite the duo throughout the story and the proper amount of time is taken to make sure that the friendship is developed properly over the long term. They aren’t just thrust together and become Batman and Robin.
I don’t want to spoil the story because I think there is a lot of this that should be experienced with new, wide-open eyes. But there is one part of this story where one character is singing blues and my lord…it was so wonderfully done. I sat there as I read it and started tapping my hand on my thigh singing along with them. We need to imagine a different, better world for ourselves. My extensive reading experiences have taught many things and one of them is that the imagination is the greatest and perhaps only platform to initiate change. You have to be able to imagine a better world in order to actually want a better world. I’m almost sure that the only major goal with this story was just to tell a good one, but it’s so much more than that. A book like this shown and given to people who don’t ever get to see themselves doing better and achieving more…that’s powerful. Books like this and writers like Milton are absolutely necessary. To me, Freedonia isn’t just a place to dream and fancy about. It’s something we can build right here, right now. Let’s follow the author’s example and imagine better.
(SIDE NOTE: Annette Bijoux is THAT lady and I want to see her get a solo story or something. She was just too striking a character to not see pop up more.)