THE CALL OF ZULINA

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Audiobooks—fiction - GARY PRES­LEY

Kay Mar­shall Strom, Dream­scape Me­dia, $29.99 (9.25 hours), 978-1-5200-5447-6 This ac­tion-driven novel will ap­peal to those who like highly dra­matic ro­mance in a his­tor­i­cal set­ting.

Set on Africa’s west coast in the late eigh­teenth cen­tury, Kay Mar­shall Strom’s The Call of Zulina is the first in a se­ries of fast-mov­ing his­tor­i­cal ro­mances in which Grace Winslow, daugh­ter of a slave trader and an African princess, strug­gles to sur­vive as a free woman.

Grace’s English sea cap­tain fa­ther set­tled ashore as a slave trader, pros­per­ing in the ugly prac­tice at his Fortress of Zulina. Seek­ing more riches, he de­mands that Grace marry a boor­ish English­man. In­stead, she slips from the fam­ily com­pound only to be cap­tured. She’s taken to Zulina, where re­bel­lious slaves are gath­er­ing. The lat­ter half of the nar­ra­tive fo­cuses on the vi­o­lent re­bel­lion, a pe­riod when Grace turns from by­stander to sym­pa­thizer to ac­tivist.

There’s a Cin­derella as­pect to the story, but Grace is a mod­ern hero­ine: a strong woman not in need of res­cue. With an African set­ting com­ing to light through ref­er­ences to lo­cal crops, baobab trees, and har­mat­tan winds, the nar­ra­tive speeds through chap­ters of con­flict and vi­o­lence, all ren­dered with florid, old-fash­ioned di­a­logue.

A woman with an English ac­cent nar­rates, her voice of­fer­ing solid in­flec­tion and nat­u­ral pauses, and be­com­ing pas­sion­ate where ap­pro­pri­ate. Oddly, the fa­ther’s voice is near Cock­ney, with an abun­dance of “me­thinks.” When it comes to ren­der­ing men’s voices and the voices of Africans, the nar­ra­tor some­times strains be­yond nat­u­ral­ness.

This is an ac­tion-driven novel, one that can be quickly con­sumed. In au­dio, it un­folds at the nar­ra­tor’s pace—more than nine hours here—and the for­mat be­comes a choice of con­ve­nience. Strom’s The Call of Zulina will ap­peal to those who like highly dra­matic ro­mance in a his­tor­i­cal set­ting.

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