Lightning’s Eggs is novel by Daniel Mutendi and published by DanTs Media Publishing July 6, 2019. The book is a translation of Daniel Mutendi’s epic Shona novel Mazai Emheni published by DanTs Media January 7, 2018.
I haven’t read the Shona version but an excerpt of the opening chapter on the author’s website Mazai Emheni: Chitsauko One shows that it is a rich read told in a deep Chikaranga dialect of the Shona language.
The story is reminiscent of Shona novels that took me back to my Secondary School days such as Misodzi, Dikita neRopa and Nhume Yamambo by Norbet Mafumhe Mutasa with a sprinkling of Karikoga gumi remuseve by Patrick Chakaipa snd some Ndinofa Ndaedza by Bornventure Honzeri.
Lightning’s Eggs is an epic fantasy set in the fictional lands of an ancient Africa, precolonial times. The protagonist Shingai whose name means bravery or perseverance wakes up to learn of the murderous intentions of his father and so he flees from everything he knows and into an unexpected journey and a rite of passage that sees him grow into a principled man in a world where nothing is quite as it seems….
Daniel can spin an awesome story, which feels like the kind of story one would be told around a huge fire on a full moon night…
The title of the book is from Shona legend which is contrary to how its said lightning does not strike the same place but instead lays eggs in lone trees in valleys and will return regularly to hatch its eggs by striking such trees and with its short temper, could strike anything that gets close to its nest…
While the book is set in a period that would have been extremely patriarchal Daniel manages to subtly address societal issues and even has some very strong female leads doing their best with cards they have been dealt.
This multicharacter epic tale is spread across varied lands and I managed to lose my bearings a couple of times and my mental map was out of orientation and I was as lost as Shingai I wished that the book had a map…
I ran into a map after I had finished reading the book maybe some versions of the book have the map, the Kindle I read didn’t have a map
The book was translated into English from Shona and some of the dialogue comes off as awkward in its attempt to bridge the translation shortfall while navigating idiomatic vernacular phrases which cannot be directly interpreted into English without losing their depth or intensity.
In Lightning’s Eggs there is a stellar effort to preserve the original translation and while I have not read the Shona version I could reverse translate some phrases to spot the Shona idioms and the oblique metaphors of the Chikaranga language, chibhende.
I feel the book would have been richer had some of the phrases been left in some dialogues scenes with a translation afterwards or glossary section.
Overally this is a delightful read which took me on a fantastical journey of ancient Africa and some of its myths and legends.