The Lion and the Leopard (The Lion and the Leopard Trilogy #3), by Brian Duncan

Eight stars

In his final instalment of the African trilogy, Brian Duncan gathers the plots from his previous two novels for an exciting finale. During the early part of 1914, there are whispers of an imminent war on the horizon, even on the southernmost part of the African continent. Alan Spaight and his daughters are headed back to their farmland around South Africa, hoping to settle on their land and avoid the conflict. Spaight’s cousin, Martin Russell, is also preparing to use his experience from the Boer War to help craft a strong set of military manoeuvres that could be useful should conflict erupt in the colonial lands across Africa. The winds of war have led the world to turn their eyes on Europe, where the Germans are flexing their muscle, but there are important holdings a continent away that could prove just as important for land acquisition. When war formally begins, the African colonies begin to draw their own battle lines, with German East Africa playing the role of central aggressor against their continental neighbours under the control of Britain, Belgium, and Portugal. While the Spaights and Russells are called into action, others in the area join the Allied forces to repel the Germans. As Duncan elucidates, it becomes a battle where the two European groupings are not the only aggressors, particularly with the addition of thick jungles and numerous bodies of water. Malaria-infected mosquitos attack anyone with a blood source and cripple forces in vast quantities. Additionally, the African locals have had their fill of suppression, turning to shed their oppressive yokes by entering their own midnight battles, predominantly against the British landowners. With strong war themes throughout, Duncan pulls the reader into the middle of the untold story of the African Theatre of the Great War. A powerful novel that educates and entertains in equal measure.

Duncan tells a wonderful story with true African flavour, pulled from his own experiences over many decades. Readers who are familiar with the previous two books will understand the richness of the narrative and feel right at home as the story moves from jungle battles to war room strategy sessions. With a number of strong central characters, Duncan is able to weave a masterful tale of the horrors of war alongside the wonders of the African subcontinent and its vast array of wildlife. War-based plots fill most of the narrative, from plotting, fighting, and casualties, but there is also a strong sense of character interconnectedness and development with emotional growth and even romantic encounters. Peppering both English and local African dialects throughout brings another realistic aspect to the story, which is full of symbolism as Duncan develops another avenue of the novel’s rich flavour. Readers who are familiar with another African author’s ‘Courtney’ and ‘Ballantyne’ series will find much enjoyment in this novel (as well as the other two in this trilogy). Those who have a piqued curiosity with the region and its history may also enjoy these well-researched books. 

Kudos, Mr. Duncan for developing this wonderful collection of historical novels. I am pleased to have been pointed in the direction of your novels and would recommend them to any reader with a keen interest in Africa.