Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
In the Land of Magic Soldiers

In the Land of Magic Soldiers

A Story of White and Black in West Africa

Daniel Bergner

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


An Los Angeles Times Best Book 2003

A chilling, beautifully written narrative of African war

Sierra Leone is the world's most war-ravaged country. There, in a West African landscape of spectacular beauty, rampaging soldiers--many not yet in their teens--have made a custom of hacking off the hands of their victims, then letting them live as the ultimate emblem of terror. The country is so anarchic and so desperate that, forty years after independence, its people long to be recolonized. And the West wants to save it.

Daniel Bergner's In the Land of Magic Soldiers follows both a set of white would-be saviors--a family of American missionaries, a mercenary helicopter gunship pilot, and the army of Great Britain--and also a set of Sierra Leoneans, among them a father who rescues his daughter from rape, loses his hands as punishment, then begins to rebuild his life; a child soldier and sometime cannibal; and a highly Westernized medical student who claims immunity to bullets and a cure for H.I.V.

A story of black and white, of the First World and the world left infinitely behind, of those who would nation-build and those who live in a land of fire and jungle, In the Land of Magic Soldiers is an unforgettable work of literary reportage by "a terrific reporter with a novelist's eye" (Peter Applebome, The New York Times Book Review).

In the Land of Magic Soldiers

There is a place where the bend in a path--just that, a slight curve in a narrow strip of mud--can produce an ache, a longing, a bending of the heart. Within the jungle on either side stand...

Praise for In the Land of Magic Soldiers

“Daniel Bergner is a brave man and he has written an extraordinarily good book here, a compendium of surreal horrors, vastly improbable characters and very fine writing. Those who have illusions about Africa will find little comfort here; in fact, they will find some passages unbearable, and curse Bergner for daring to examine the heart of darkness in his subject and in himself. But these things should be heard, because there is no way forward unless we stare at the truth long and hard enough for the path of salvation to be revealed. Mr. Bergner has done this for us in the insane jungles and slums of Sierra Leone. His eyes are clear, his pen is true, and his book is a truly valuable addition to the canon of post-colonial African literature.” —Rian Malan, author of My Traitor's Heart -

Reviews from Goodreads

Daniel Bergner

Daniel Bergner is the author of the previous works, Moments of Favor and God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison, and has written for Harper's, Talk, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives with his wife and two children in New York City.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook