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(Imaro #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  491 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Imaro is a rousing adventure... a tale of a young man’s continuing struggle to gain acceptance amongst his people, and to break the cycle of alienation and violence that plagues his life.

Imaro is heroic fantasy like it’s never been done before. Based on Africa, and African traditions and legends, Charles Saunders has created Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili), an a
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by Night Shade (first published 1981)
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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  491 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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J.G. Keely
In the hands of its most talented practitioners, Sword & Sorcery can be thrilling, scintillating, and deeply ironic--which makes it all the more regrettable to see just how thoughtless and cliche depictions of race and sex tend to be in the genre. Part of what excited me about the prospect of reading this hard-to-find series was that it is very much about race, a self-aware deconstruction of one of the genre’s historic failings.

It is that--as well as a dip into African History, a fascinating
S.E. Lindberg
Quality Adventure with Legendary Context

Style & Legendary Motivations:
This unique blend of Lovecraft & African mythology features a Conan-like hero. It’s pulpy style & storytelling may merit 4 stars: its uniqueness & place in literature boost it to 5.

Imaro is adventure in the vein of vintage, pulp periodicals. Expect heavy doses of sorcery & horror at a brisk pace. Unlike traditional pulp stories, these chapters are slightly less-episodic and more-chronological. In other wor
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Imaro’s mother surrendered her five year old son so that he could become a great warrior of the Ilyassai tribe. His mother’s people treated him with disdain and ridicule. Through it all, Imaro grew to be the biggest and strongest of the Ilyassai children. When he reached manhood and the time had come for him to truly become an Ilyassai warrior and be accepted by his mother’s people, an evil magician strip him of that reward, spiraling Imaro’s life into a world of slavery, murderous thieves, and ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
C. Michael
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just read Imaro and it was rewarding reading experience I've had in quite some time.

I loved the Conan novels as a teen and imagined at some point writing a story with a black protagonist. Imaro is something like what I had in mind, but I've got to admit, much better! It's obvious Saunders immersed himself in African culture to create this world. The culture of the Masai-like Illassai is depicted so realistically and the story seems so grounded in reality that by the time the paranormal raises
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not a Conan or an anti-Conan in concept, but it is interesting how Saunders takes the basic principle of an outcast, a warrior who has left his homeland, and made it work for him. The violence that Conan wields and Robert E Howard seems to worship is here a sour and unsettling thing, borne of anger and alienation and other psychic poison. Imaro might be a noteworthy warrior and possibly a talented leader of men, but those who follow him will eventually turn from loyalty and admiration to fear.

Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Very inventive sword & sorcery set in an Alternate Africa. Virtually unique at the time it came out in introducing a hero who was black into a heroic fantasy setting. This is the first of three books in a series, although the three don't make a trilogy in the standard sense. Each book stands on its own.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable collection of interlocking tales about Imaro. I enjoyed how the menace throughout the stories evolved into a world encompassing evil leading up to the next book.
Edward Erdelac
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable sword and sorcery novel, Howardian in its excitement, and a bit above and beyond in terms of characterization. Though Imaro is the kind of superman that slashes his way through this genre, he's also capable of three dimensional thought and feeling, which is how I like to think Howard might have progressed had he lived.

Saunders does not limit Imaro or himself to a historical or prehistoric world, but instead fashions a fantastic Africa that never was, crawling with demons and magic
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked this up with the intention of reading a single story as a break from a long, demanding read, and ended up reading this exclusively to its end. I am now struck by a mixture of feelings both happy and sad: the former, because these stories were great fun and a wonderful discovery to behold; the latter, because Saunders is a lost (and yet living) light in adventure fiction--to the extent that this book, and its immediate sequel, are no longer in print.

I came across this title in a post abo
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Inspired by Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery stories but disappointed by the lack of fantasy stories set in Africa, with black heroes and with an appreciation of the rich diversity of the continent's cultures, Saunders decided to write his own. And I have to say, what a fantastic job he did.

We follow Imaro from his mysterious and humble beginnings through his coming of age and his travels across a semi-mythical Africa as he meets friends, lovers and enemies, as eventually he discovers that h
Mar 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy-sword
In the thirty-plus years since the stories in this book first appeared, the writer has matured, and rewritten major segments that he felt no longer worked for him, or his intended audience. This "creator revisionism" annoyed me a bit, but his goal was to remove aspects of the story that were too close to tragic events that had since occurred in the real world.
Written as a response to the earlier Eurocentric trends in Sword & Sorcery fantasy, the Imaro stories create an Africa every bit as my
Mohammed Abdi Osman
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Sword and Sorcery,Heroic Fantasy,Robert E.Howard fans
Great and original Sword & Sorcery set in ancient alternate africa.
Imaro is inspired by Robert.E Howard but Charles.R Saunders is his own man with his taut prose,fascinating alternate Africa,he can also write action scenes as well as the best in this kind of fantasy.

A hidden gem. A must for every fan of S&S/Heroic fantasy.
I've seen better writing on fanfiction Livejournals. There are no words to express how extremely disappointing this was. One of the few Africa-inspired fantasy epics out there and it was just dreadful. Important in the grand scheme of the history of fantasy as a genre I suppose, but only because it exists. I guess somebody had to go first.
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's really hard to talk about Imaro without mentioning the Conan stories, not least becasue that's how it was originally sold to me, as "What if the Conan stories were written by a black man and based on African culture instead of European and American culture" (and a European understanding of South Asia and Africa in Ghulistan and the Black Kingdoms). And it's true that this book is rooted in Conan-style sword and sorcery. Imaro is a warrior from a warrior culture, massive in size yet cat-like ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it

Fairly standard S&S, although the African influences lend a bit more interest than I normally would have with the genre. Decent book, but not really my type of story, so I probably won't continue with it.
Kalem Wright
Jan 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason M Waltz
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
well this one is a challenge. Highly regarded author and character, very much wanted to read this; bought it and started reading it over a year ago... picked it up to continue reading about 2 weeks ago and finished strong. obviously the first half of the book did not hook me. in fact I was rather disappointed. interestingly enough, now that I finished the book and the afterword and reread the author's forward, I see it is the newest story of the collection (the one Saunders had to rewrite for mo ...more
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even after reading the Imaro series I enjoyed listening to the audio book narrated by Mirron Willis. Definitely recommended!
Timothy Boyd
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic fantasy series set in ancient africa. These stories have all you need; lost cities and races for the hero to battle. Very recommended
Steve Dilks
I wanted to like this book. I really did. After reading an uncollected Imaro story, "Death in Jukun", in a fantasy anthology and hearing so many great things, it seemed like a done deal. Alas, it was not to be. I found my enthusiasm floundering by the third story.
For the uninitiated, IMARO is a collection of stories originally published in the Gene Day fanzine, DARK FANTASY, during the mid 1970s. Saunders wrote them as a reaction to the Conan tales of Robert E. Howard, which were proving popula
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This was one of the best pieces of fantasy I’ve read in a while.
I need to clarify a bit, this is the best “Sword and Sorcery” fantasy written in the early 80’s that I’ve read in a while. As one would expect from this timeframe and genre, it is misogynistic. But if you can get over that, it is also quite amazing!

I researched this book because “Children of Blood and Bone” showed up on every new fantasy list on the internet. That got me to thinking, what was the first, if any, fantasy that was set
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Fantasy is practically synonymous with its typical medieval European setting, with a lot of exoticized external cultures. That’s a shame, because that terrain has nearly lost its power to excite our imaginations, and requires a fair bit of talent to pull off in a way that feels creative at this point. Nor does the faux-historical Eurocentric worldview the geography invokes hold up in a world with a very different cultural and political landscape and a much more substantial exposure to non-Wester ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an awesome, fast-paced, muscular read. Yet, for all the action, there’s a melancholy brooding to it. A sense of failure and lonesomeness that gives the story a more downbeat cast. Even as Imaro triumphs, there’s a cost, or a sense that something bad will come of it.
SJ Fujimoto
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charles Saunders' Imaro was the start of something new, the Afrocentric fantasy adventure—sword-and-soul as Saunders dubbed it. Taking inspiration from what he loved about Robert E. Howard's Conan, discarding what he hated and adding what he needed, Imaro was made for black readers who wanted a hero they could better identify with while showing that a magical Africa was just as viable a setting for fantasy as a magical Europe. Bad luck and poor sales prevented Imaro from becoming better known th ...more
“I go… but I leave a warrior,” so says five year old Imaro’s mother as she leaves him with the Ilyassai (Masai) to train him. But wherever he goes, whenever he accomplishes something there are magicians, shamans and witches to take all his accomplishments, girlfriends and sense of community. Over and over in his life he must battle not only his community, but magic. After the Ilyassai’s savannah he crosses all of Nyumbani (home in Swahili, or Africa here) to the forest and river of Mtumwe. Once ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
I was initially very interested in the premise of a sword-and-sorcery tale inspired by pre-colonial Africa, drawing on non-European mythological roots. Unfortunately, Imaro is ultimately a disappointment. Apart from an overabundance of African names and italicized Swahili, the narrative is depressingly straight-forward: Destiny Warrior is stronger than everyone else, suffers endless persecution, mistreats women, becomes king, is conspired against, suffers more persecution. Conan is Saunders' cle ...more
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Not impressed so far ... (see how I use ellipses? Like Saunders ....) Anyway, the story is okay but the writing is amateurish, and not in a good way. I can see why this book has had a rocky past. You really have to believe in it, and I just didn't. Too many clumsy constructions and confusing action scenes left me considering about re-reading a passage to try to get what was going on, but then I thought that it really wasn't worth the effort, and I moved on. Especially (spoiler) when Imaro faces ...more
Aaron Meyer
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great set of stories. I love how each story flowed right into the other. This particular edition contains the story "The Afua" which takes the place of the "Slaves of the Giant-Kings" from the first edition of the Imaro stories and some revisions to the rest of the stories.
Charles Saunders Imaro stories are a must have on ones sword and sorcery shelf, hands down.
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Saunders was born in 1946 in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and emigrated to Canada in 1970. He has published science fiction and screenplays, two of which have become feature films. Saunders has also written a radio play, as well as other non-fiction works. He currently works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is the author of two recent works of historical non-fiction: Share and Care: The Stor ...more

Other books in the series

Imaro (4 books)
  • The Quest for Cush (Imaro #2)
  • The Trail of Bohu (Imaro, #3)
  • The Naama War (Imaro, #4)
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