Friday, 14 September 2012

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba by Patricia McKissack


Nzinga is a part of a book series by Scholastic called The Royal Diaries, which are fictional diaries of real princesses and noble women from history.  The Royal Diaries series features famous noble women from around the world, from Marie Antoinette to Jahanara of India.

I started collecting the books when I was a teenager. I’ve always loved reading books about strong women and I love reading the history of royal women. Although I heard that some of the books are not quite historically accurate with the dates and events, switching them around to suit the plot, I still think that the books are nice starting point to learning a little history. I always do a little more research afterwards so it doesn’t bother me at all.

 The Royal diaries books are quite lovely; they are hardcover and feature a beautiful illustration of the featured noble woman on the front cover. The books are small diary sized and most of them have gilded gold pages.

It’s hard to find the hardcover versions in Australia. Most bookshops have the new paperback editions of the book series which I don’t think is as special as the hardcover ones.
Paperback version
Hardcover version

I know that it doesn’t matter whether you get the paperback one or the hardcover one because it’s the same story inside but I started my collection with the hardcover ones so I want to continue with it.

My birthday is in September and as a treat for myself, I ordered five of the Royal Diaries books off the internet. I want to complete my collection this year as I have been collecting them for quite some time.

The Nzingha book is about princess Nzingha of Angola , Africa in the year 1595. She is the daughter of the Ngola (tribal leader) Ndambi Kiluanji with his former slave, Kangela. In the book, she feels that she gets treated as inferior because she’s female and her mother’s background.

When she was born there was a prophecy that she will one day be queen. However only men are allowed to be Ngolas. So her mother Kangela, secretly arranges for her to be taught to read and write Portuguese by a priest Giovanni Gavazzi who they took  prisoner years ago. The Portuguese are invading their land and taking away their people as slaves so Nzingha needs to know all about them if she will be a leader one day. 

Nzingha is a feisty girl who is opinionated, outspoken, likes to hunt, fish and hang out with the warriors, all traits that are frowned upon in her culture. Women do not hunt and women aren’t warriors. She cares deeply for her family and her people and her outspokenness comes from wanting to protect them which sometimes gets her into trouble with her father.

 Nzingha’s father Ndambi Kiluanji recognises that Nzingha is wise and brave so he sends her to negotiate a peace treaty with the Portuguese governor.  The novel ends quite abruptly after that. I thought the journey to  Luanda (the Portuguese colony) was rather short and so was the negotiation. The novel ends with Nzingha coming back to her village and telling her father about her experience. The end.

I wanted to read more about their interactions and what would come after negotiating with the foreign invaders. Fortunately, every Royal diary book comes with an epilogue of what happened after events described in the diary and it has photos of the artefacts and portraits of the people in the novel.

In my opinion, this book is not as good as the others in the series. My favourites are Lady of Chi’ao Kuo by Laurence Yep, Jahanara by Kathryn Lasky and Elizabeth I by Kathryn Lasky.

I recommend this series for girls. The girls in the novels are always spirited and courageous in some way. Most history was written about men so these girls had to be pretty special to get a mention in the history books.

There are 20 or so books to the Royal Diaries series.  However they have been integrated into a new diary series called My Royal Story so you will be able to find more books on historical women.


They are a spinoff of an American book series called Dear America which is fictional diaries of girls living in different points of time in America. There’s also an Australian spin off of Dear America called My Australian story with a similar premise, Scholastic are still producing new My Australian stories so you will be able to find lots of new books.  Maybe there are some other diary spin offs in other countries as well, you’ll have to check.


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