Nyasanu is one of the most fully developed and complex characters in Yerby’s canon. Nyasanu is the son of a politically powerful man who has nearly insatiable ambitions for himself and his son. As the son of a village chief, Nyasanu becomes the heir to substantial power.
After his father is killed in battle, Nyasanu assumes the mantle of village chief and begins a steady climb to prominence and wealth. It becomes apparent, however, that Nyasanu is trapped; the more he controls, the less he is able to control. He is aware of the pitfalls surrounding him, but he is powerless to change his position. He owes his ultimate allegiance to Gezo; when Gezo commands him to marry Princess Yekpewa, he must, and the action causes his downfall. Nyasanu accepts his fate, which is to be captured and sold into slavery. He remarks stoically that “no man is powerless who is prepared to suffer the consequences of his actions.”
Opposing Nyasanu are Gbochi, Prince Atedeku, and Princess Yekpewa. Gbochi is a weak man who becomes embittered by his brother’s success and schemes against him. Atedeku is self-centered and malicious, as is his half sister Yekpewa; though these characters are not nearly so formidable as Nyasanu, together they manage to plot his downfall.
King Gezo is generous but not always astute. He rewards Nyasanu for his bravery in battle by furthering his political career and awarding him Princess Yekpewa in marriage; he does not, though, understand that the latter is less a gift than a burden. Gbenu, Nyasanu’s father, is a wise leader and a brave warrior, qualities he transmits to his son. Kpadunu, Nyasanu’s close friend, is thoughtful and loyal; in battle, he sacrifices his own life to protect Nyasanu.