In the best of the Courtney series novels to date, Smith weaves more tales of South Africa, using his explosive cast of characters. With the Second Word War in the recent past, South Africa moves into a new era, both of politics and racial clashes. Half-brothers Shasa Courtney and Manfred De La Rey both hold seats in Parliament, but sit on opposing sides. The National Party has succeeded at the polls and holds a firm grip on power, seeking to legislate their permanent rule of the country, in which blacks will be subservient under apartheid. When Shasa is lured from the opposition benches to the National Party, he is promised a cabinet post and serves effectively, as South Africa is shunned internationally for its antics. Some may say Shasa has turned his back on his morals, though he would argue that there is a need to work within the system currently in place, trying to turn things around in whatever way he can. The black population of the country will not wait for an outside saviour. Moses Gama works within the military arm of the African National Congress (ANC) to bring about change, no matter the bloodshed. As he rallies the troops, Gama commits the ultimate coup when he lures Shasa’s wife, Tara, away from her husband and into his bed. They conceive a son, which Tara has in secret, and Gama is able to use Tara as a pawn in his evolving plot to infiltrate the government. When a major terrorist plot is foiled, Gama faces the ultimate price after a trial in the white courts. Working together, Shasa and Manfred, whose connection has only just been revealed to one another, are able to limit any violence as they quell the ANC protests and keep South Africa strong. In the latter portion of the novel, Shasa finally uncovers the White Sword, the man behind the murder of his grandfather, Garrick Courtney. Manfred disappears from public life in a negotiated deal with his brother, living out his life on the farms while Shasa rises to new powers, representing the Republic of South Africa on the international scene. Powerful in its plot advancements and ever-developing characters, Smith does a masterful job at keeping the reader highly entertained throughout.
One reason that this novel vaults ahead of its predecessors is the thick plots related to the political and social developments within South Africa. It is within the timeframe of this novel that the Smuts morals of governing are turned around and the National Party begins a brutal regime of ostracizing the black population. Smith weaves historical truths within his fictional narrative, as South Africa becomes the abandoned child of the British Commonwealth and soon leaves the comforts of the nest to survive as a republic. Smith is also keen on pushing the multi-generational aspect of the story within this novel, honing the lives of both Manfred and Shasa’s children, giving them their own lives and plots that develop throughout and will, hopefully, continue to expand as the series moves forward. These rich storylines foster more interest for the reader, as the torch is passed from Centaine to her grandchildren with great intrigue, and each grandchild chooses a life path of their own. Smith leaves many threads dangling and must address them, but also makes sure to tie off a number of loose ends, all in the hopes of keeping the reader guessing about what will come next.
Kudos, Mr. Smith for taking the time to bring South Africa to life. This is a series I have been looking for and you deliver it with such ease.