Title: Nature of the Lion
Author: T.M. Clark
Published: November 19th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
An all-new vivid, action-packed adventure across the African landscape in the tradition of Tony Park and Wilbur Smith, from Australian thriller writer, T.M. Clark.
Hiding from the law, they never expected to be caught in the crosshairs of a hunter…
After relocating to South Africa on the heels of scandal five years ago, Chloe and her invalid father, Mike, once wealthy Zimbabwean landowners, now have little. Away at university, Chloe has had to rely on her father’s best friend Enoch and his son Xo to watch over Mike.
When a violent confrontation puts Chloe in danger, Enoch steps in to help – with inadvertent fatal results. With increasing pressure from a right-wing group on the police to charge Enoch, this mismatched family have no choice but to flee back to Zimbabwe.
But crossing the border will be dangerous and near impossible with their route taking them amid warring dissident armies and landmines, and their every footstep is stalked by a shadowy ring of hunters – whose trophies are taken from more than animals…
Only with help from Nick, formerly a soldier under Mike’s command, now a professional game ranger, will the fugitives have a chance of making it home. But Nick has long struggled to come to terms with his fellow soldiers’ choices before their unit was abandoned. Will his past demons put them all at risk?
‘Africa was proving to be a provocative continent, the people full of secrets and deceptions, lies and conspiracies, committed by many, and ignored by others, as a thin veil of decency was hung over everything, making it all appear more civil than it actually was.’
Nature of the Lion, the latest release from T.M. Clark, is an edgy voyage of survival into Africa’s heartland. Clark pits her characters against many moments of pure danger, as they must make their way across the borders of Africa. This journey is an unforgettable one, which displays Africa’s stunning landscape and it exposes the underbelly of menace that exists in this majestic nation. It was far too easy to fall under the spell of T.M. Clark’s fifth African themed novel. I found myself unable to turn away from this novel, consuming it in just two sittings.
Nature of the Lion revolves around a family that were forced to leave the lucrative land they owned in Zimbabwe, due to a scandal. Fleeing to South Africa, where they have lived for five years now, Mike and his daughter Chloe, along with Mike’s best friend Enoch, plus his son Xo, are faced with further trials when a violent situation arises. In order to save everyone’s lives, the group flee South Africa, with their sights set on their land back in Zimbabwe. This proves to be a deadly trek, testing their very limits. The borders are dangerous, filled with hazards. From vicious wildlife, fractional armies, hunters and landmines, the threat comes from all directions. With the help of former solider come ranger Nick, one of Mike’s former charges, the group have a trusted guide. Dodging many bullets, the party attempt to make their way to the sanctuary of their former home, with heart pounding results.
With a passion for both storytelling and her homeland of Africa, T.M. Clark provides a voice for her birth nation. Although she now resides on the east coast of Australia, T.M. Clark’s love and devotion for Africa has not waned. She has channelled this energy into all five of her novels and she should be proud of what she has accomplished. I genuinely connected to Nature of the Lion from cover to cover and I will happily endorse T.M. Clark’s work.
Having spoken to a number of acquaintances who have lived in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I feel that the picture that T.M. Clark provides in her new novel, Nature of the Lion, is an accurate reflection of the experiences of Africa’s landowners. It is a sad state of affairs. The political tensions and racial divisions that have taken place for years now, seem to have no end in sight. It seems brave and almost essential that T.M. Clark should write a novel of this persuasion. She is able to balance a complex history of real world happenings, alongside an authentic, as well as a completely engaging narrative.
Chloe, Mike, Enoch, Xo, Nick and the other characters that fill the pages of Nature of the Lion have been pinched from reality. They come across as realistic and well drawn, which enables the reader to easily sympathise with their predicament. I was completely invested in their situation, from the opening to the close of the novel. What trials they all went through and their own individual back stories were fascinating to uncover.
Clark amps up the thrills, adventure and suspense in her latest novel. Nature of the Lion is a big blockbuster quest across the continent. With the writing exuding a cinematic quality, I could easily situate myself in the unfolding events. This novel would make a great film, I would love to see it feature on the big screen!
The suspense aspect of the novel is offset by a touch of romance. The deep affection that exists between Chloe and her father’s former charge in the army, Nick, was beautifully captured. Clark has a good understanding of the various emotions that are attached to the journey each character takes in this novel and each emotional scene is portrayed with conviction.
Landscape and the wildlife of Africa are given star treatment by Clark. I would dearly love to visit Africa and one day I hope to go on a safari, in the meantime, I have Nature of the Lion to fill this void. What I appreciated about Clark’s descriptive prose in her wildlife and landscape features was her ability to simply expresses how it is. This may be confronting, but it is told with an air of truth. Clark remains faithful to her heritage and her country of birth. This is witnessed in her devastating descriptions of a once great lion the group come across in their sojourn.
‘Instead of how he was now- isolated and alone.
His ribs showed like ripples on water against his tawny skin as he walked, carefully picking up one huge paw and placing it down, as if each step was a mission of its own to accomplish.’
A word on the structure of this novel, which I really felt that Clark worked hard at trying to make as helpful and beneficial to the reader as possible. It definitely heightened the reading experience for me. Prior to the first chapter, a map of the areas covered in the duration of the book are included. This served as a great introduction to the tale. I was able to situate myself in the unfurling events of the novel. The local language that often populates the dialogue spoken by the protagonists allows you to fully immerse yourself in the countries, people and culture that exists in this corner of the world. Interspersed through the novel are references to the 6th Society, a deadly organisation that hunts to kill everything and anything – humans included. Between the chapters of Nature of the Lion there are lists of top 6 trophies – animals from each continent of the world. This was quite eye-opening and shocking. We are aware of these game hunters though, often splashed across social media and newspapers for their terrible glory kills, so Clark is simply drawing our attention to the existence of these cold-blooded hunters. Finally, rounding off the novel is a glossary of terms used, as well as a fascinating fact or fiction feature at the close of the book.
Nature of the Lion is a revealing novel, it works to expose the open wound that exists in Africa both today and in the past, through the expedition undertaken by the characters featured in this expressive tale. Based on my respect and appreciation for the work of T.M. Clark, I am going to mark her books as auto buys and commit to catching up on her previous two novels, which I am yet to delve into. Nature of the Lion receives a big stamp of approval from this reader.
‘After all, in lion country, you slept with one eye open, or you died.’
Nature of the Lion was published on 19th November 2018 by Harlequin – Mira AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Nature of the Lion, T.M. Clark, here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin – Mira AU for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Nature of the Lion is book #15 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge