The Secret War of Independence

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Near the beginning of The Shadow King, Aster is presented as this sort of mean stepmother, who uses Hirut as an outlet for her anger that should be directed towards her husband, Kidane. As readers, we learn that Hirut was brought to Aster’s house by Kidane exactly one year after their infant son died. Kidane was very close with Hirut’s mother and promised to take care of Hirut after she died. Aster, however, believes Kidane wanted to maintain his power over Aster and rubbed Hirut in her face. She becomes resentful of Hirut because she reminds Aster of her son that she will never be able to raise. Aster has no respect for Hirut and will never see her as a daughter. Our perception of Aster dramatically changes after a chapter told from her perspective in which she explains that first night of her marriage with Kidane. We learn that Aster once was a fiery spirit who had attempted to run away because she does not want to be trapped in her arranged marriage. As Aster is describing the scene, we see her try to resist Kidane. Her struggle is symbolic for her resistance to the entire marriage and the tradition within her culture. Aster further displays her resilience when sounding the call for war, riding around on a black horse, proclaiming for the women to take up arms as well. People rumored that she was the spirit of the late Empress Taitu, cursing the invaders and spurring people to defend the Ethiopian Empire. Right at the end of the latest passage, Hirut watches as Aster dons a battle uniform, picks up a rifle, and salutes in front of the current Empress’ broadcast. Aster acquires a newfound resolve after seemingly losing her spirit to years of an oppressive marriage.

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