cover image The Drinker of Horizons

The Drinker of Horizons

Mia Couto, trans. from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-60553-7

Couto’s satisfying conclusion to his Sands of the Emperor trilogy (after The Sword and the Spear) finds 15-year-old series protagonist Imani pregnant and alone, and about to set sail with the Portuguese army to transport the recently captured king of Gaza, Ngungunyane, and other prisoners from Mozambique to Lisbon. Because Imani can speak Portuguese, she serves as translator for the soldiers and the prisoners, and as the lot travels from boat to boat and various ports, she bonds with one of Ngungunyane’s wives, Dabondi, while navigating squabbles among soldiers, an assassination plot cooked up by the prisoners, unwanted sexual advances, and Ngungunyane’s deteriorating sanity. Imani’s goal is to safely reach Lisbon before giving birth and to reunite with her lover and live as a family—though once the group reaches Portugal, they hear word of continued fighting in Mozambique. With the precocious Imani’s narration, Couto allows his protagonist’s fears and hopes to take center stage, though the occasional epistolary communications folded into the narrative tend to distract. Despite a jarring time jump in the final chapter, Couto succeeds in wrapping up each character’s story and in spotlighting the ravages of colonization. Series fans will enjoy this finale. (Mar.)