She Who Must Be Obeyed

She: A History of Adventure is a Victorian era adventure novel by Henry Rider Haggard. It’s not normally something I’d pick up except that if you remember, back in December I read a book called Supergirls wherein this book was talked about as the genesis for the She-Ra type characters, the Amazon women, the wild-woman in comic books. And it sounded interesting enough to pick up.

I’m sure you all know by now I don’t particularly care for the Victorian style of novel-ing, but this one was an exception. The story couched as a manuscript given to a friend of the narrator’s to publish as he sees fit after their deaths. This manuscript tells the incredible story of a cross-generational/time romance and adventure in Africa of a young man and his mentor. What is boils down to is, the narrator’s adoptive son is the great-great-hellagreat descendant of an Egyptian priest who got caught up in a love triangle way back when and ended up murdered for it. His pregnant wife recorded the details and charged her children with avenging their father. Apparently, it didn’t matter how many generations this took because the woman who killed him out of jealousy would live forever.

Now, these two brave adventurers think this sounds like a mighty fun adventure, even though they don’t believe they’ll meet this mysterious long-lived woman, and take off for Africa following the various ancestors’ directions on a shard of ancient pot. Needless to say, the woman is real, and believes the young man to be the reincarnation of her dead beloved. THEN things get tricky.

It’s in the fairly standard Victorian style, overwrought and full of hand-fanning, but it didn’t bother me so much this time because there was none of the gossiping, fainting women, or dressed up dullary that I find pervades most of the literature of that time. The female characters are all incredibly strong, the plot is well constructed, and I’d happily follow these two men onto whatever adventures they wanted to go on next.

So, if you like a good adventure, strong sexy women, or Victorian literature, I’d say pick this one up and give it a go!

Title page for She: A History of Adventure