I was very lucky in October to win a set of She books By H. Rider Haggard from Hesperus Press. The four books make a very attractive set and I was intrigued by the stories, She itself first published in 1886. Both my mother and my grandmother read this book when they were at school, so I wanted to see if this classic would hold my attention in the same way.
Professor Horace Holly is disturbed one night by his oldest friend who tasks him with taking on the care of his young son Leo, and also bestows upon him a strange box and an unbelievable legend. Later that night, the poor man passes away.
Holly does what is expected of him and raises the beautiful, golden curled Leo Vincey on whose twenty-fifth birthday, they open the box and Leo decides that they must go in search of the fantastical legend as depicted by the contents.
Their adventure takes them to the heart of Africa, where after a shipwreck and days of travelling, they are taken in by the strange Amahagger tribe. For a while they live with the tribe and eventually, are taken to see the beautiful and terrifying white queen of Kôr, Ayesha.
They are introduced into her kingdom and she decides that Leo is the reincarnation of lost great love and she shows them many secrets that she has learnt in her 2000 years of existence. But what started as a curious adventure ends up becoming a journey of life and death.
The language is very old fashioned, which is to be expected given the time it was written. Sometimes, I like delving into older novels as they are more challenge. There is a lot of description; of characters, of landscapes, of events, sometimes a little too much for me, but it all serves to paint a vivid picture of a unique story. The characters are all well written; I loved the relationship between the ugly, reclusive Holly and his ward, the handsome, young Leo. As for Ayesha, she is every bit as stunning and terrible as you can imagine her to be.
I think for its time, She has pushed the boundaries of the worlds and stories that can be thought of, and it is unsurprising that it has been published again and again over a hundred years since its first publication. Intelligent and engrossing, this is an adventure and a half for hardy readers of this genre. I’m looking forward to what the next books have in store.