Literature: Imaro

From left to right: Pomphis, Imaro, and Tanisha.

A Heroic Fantasy series by Charles Saunders, currently consisting of four books.

Saunders grew up reading the adventures of Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan, but was troubled how such stories never had black heroes, even when Africa was involved. So he decided to write his own stories, and created Imaro and Nyumbani, his new hero and setting respectively. Nyumbani is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Ancient Africa with people and places corresponding to real ones throughout Africa's history. Imaro, an outsider from the moment of his birth, overcomes endless challenges to his existence ranging from petty Jerkasses who don't like him for not having a father to an Ancient Conspiracy by Eldritch Abominations. Imaro, aside from simply desiring survival, seeks to find the answers about his father and why he encounters so much misfortune. He makes good friends and hated enemies along his trek across Nyumbani.

In order, the series is as follows:
  1. Imaro
  2. The Quest for Cush
  3. The Trail of Bohu
  4. The Naama War

These books provide examples of:

  • Badass: Imaro. By the end of the first story arc he's proven himself a warrior par excellence, going far beyond the normal test of manhood for the Ilyassai. Instead of just slaying a lion, Imaro has done that plus kill the Turkhana raiders that ambushed him, their sorcerer leader N'tu-mwaa, the treacherous shaman Muburi, and Muburi's master, the shaman-turned-Eldritch Abomination Chitendu, plus a number of Chitendu's monstrous mooks. All before reaching the age of majority.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Knowledge of Swahili will reveal many meaningful names.
    • Nyumbani is Swahili for "home".
  • Blade on a Stick: The Ilyassai Weapon of Choice is the arem, a long spear with a iron blade beginning halfway down its length, used both for throwing and melee combat.
  • The Dark Side: Mchawi, powerful magic that causes some serious Body Horror to the user.
  • Disappeared Dad: Imaro's father.
  • Double Standard: Ilyassai women are only allowed to have children with Ilyassai men, but Ilyassai men can take women from other nations as spoils of war; the narration specifically calls this out as a double standard.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Mashataan is a race of these.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Nyumbani is full of counterparts to tribes, kingdoms, and empires of Ancient Africa.
  • Heroic Bastard: Imaro.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Users of mchawi tend to develop abilities like Combat Tentacles that fire death rays.
  • Meaningful Name: "Imaro" is derived from imara, Swahili for "power".
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Deliberately avoided by being set in a fantasy version of Africa, populated with African-esque characters.
  • Not What I Signed On For: The haramia tell this to Imaro at the end of Book I. They're fine with banditry for profit, but fighting whole armies, confronting Eldritch Abominations, and chasing after the traitor who has kidnapped Imaro's love interest? Um, yeah, good luck with that...
  • Retcon: In the revised edition of the first book, "Slaves of the Giant Kings" has been replaced by "The Afua", because of the former story's resemblance to the Rwandan genocide.
  • Spider-Sense: Kufahuma, which is an acute awareness of one's surroundings and the ability to sense approaching danger. This is described as a skill anyone can cultivate with time and effort, but Imaro has something else as well: the ability to sense mchawi.