Alpern provides opposing accounts of the Amazons of Dahomey; however, it becomes confusing to have conflicting viewpoints presented at once. There are at times, especially in the first half, that he does not explain the more likely scenarios. Numbers of warriors are especially divergent, often by the thousands. The sentences are written like someone who is taking notes to write a thesis. While the content is highly interesting, the semantics are not engaging in ways that other successful nonfiction authors present their work. The book is strangely constructed, with the first two-thirds about certain aspects of their culture, which leads to overlapping. Within those chapters are how the culture varied in different time periods. It would have helped greatly in understanding and visualizing to order chapters by decade: how the kingdom functioned, who was king, how many amazons served, what the kingdom looked like, battles fought, and so forth.
But onto the content: Alpern shows a true love for finding out more about the history that often goes unnoticed and even erased. We have various accounts of these Amazons to know at least that they were real and lasted for hundreds of years in some manner of existence. They are, as we know, the only Amazons in history that have been proven to exist. I cannot fathom a widespread hoax, concerning the existence of Amazons when so many witnessed them anyway and even in such recent times. Alpern takes form all the sources he knows and is clearly the foremost expert on the subject, though others who specialize in it focus on one aspect, such as local oral history of the Amazons. Alpern, however, focuses heavily on the written records of French visitors.
|An Amazon of Dahomey|
I would suggest the book for any who are interested in the woman warrior, African kingdoms, military history, weaponry, and social hierarchy. It would be a wonderful thing to have a documentary based on the book, especially by Alpern, teamed up with the oral history specialists. It could also make a wonderful TV series. It's far too much of a timespan for a movie, but it could work as a season per king. So many heads would be severed from their bodies.