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Last Updated on October 26, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1096

The Ruler of the fictional Kingdom of Aburiria has been in power for so long that no one can remember how long he has been governing. Now, the country is in such devastation that most average people are starving. In the midst of this poverty, The Ruler decides to build...

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The Ruler of the fictional Kingdom of Aburiria has been in power for so long that no one can remember how long he has been governing. Now, the country is in such devastation that most average people are starving. In the midst of this poverty, The Ruler decides to build a testimony to his legacy—a massive skyscraper called Marching to Heaven that will be high enough to reach space. Having run out of the people’s Buri notes (the national currency, whose name means “worthless” in Gikuyu), he resolves to approach the Global Bank and ask for a loan to pay for the building.

Meanwhile, when a rumor circulates that the Eldares Construction Company is hiring, a queue of applicants builds that wraps around the entire city. Kamt decides to try his luck and is the first to inquire about a position. He makes an unsuccessful bid for the job, failing to convince Tajirika that his Indian postgraduate degrees are of any value. Tajirika even humiliates him, and Kamt leaves feeling angered and frustrated. Nyawra has witnessed the humiliating scene and is strangely drawn to Kamt. They meet again the same night. Both of them are dressed in beggar’s clothing, and they are run out of Paradise, an exclusive restaurant. Two policemen follow them to Nyawra’s apartment, and Kamt creates a sign for the door to ward them off: “enter at your own risk.” Tying chicken bones and string to the sign, he hurriedly signs it with a wizard’s moniker. To protect himself, Kamt is forced to adopt the new identity he created for the sign: The police are frightened away, but they return soon after, seeking advice from the one who calls himself the Wizard of the Crow.

When the police leave, Kamt and Nyawra begin talking. Nyawra shocks Kamt when she throws a plastic snake at him, the same kind that had created the disturbance at Paradise earlier that evening. The night ends with each of them increasingly interested in the other but afraid to know more. Nyawra returns the next day to Eldares, and Kamt stays behind and waits for her. While he is waiting, one of the policemen returns; remembering his moniker, Kamt does his best to conjure the spirits by consulting a mirror. The policeman leaves, satisfied by Kamt’s wizardly powers and confident that his own path to success has been assured. It is not long before others hear about the Wizard of the Crow.

At work, Nyawra notices that her boss has been bringing in Buri notes by the sackful. After a meeting with The Ruler, Tajirika has been put in charge of organizing the construction for Marching to Heaven. Afraid that a thief will steal his money, he soon starts carrying a gun. His paranoia builds, and he begins acting very strangely; his wife and children suspect that he has changed into an ogre, the African creature of greed. Tajirika even refuses to wash the hand that shook The Ruler’s hand, and he covers it with a protective glove. Eventually, Tajirika goes mad, and his wife takes him to see a diviner whose name has been gaining in popularity—the Wizard of the Crow.

Kamt consults his mirror again and explains that Tajirika has been struck with the need to be white. Embarrassed, Tajirika leaves Kamt with three sacks of Buri notes as payment. Kamt finds that the money has a foul smell, and he decides to bury it in a field. The money begins to sprout trees that produce American dollars.

Meanwhile, Nyawra plots a demonstration during a visit by the Global Bank. Her female political dissent group, the Movement for the Voice of the People, stages a protest against the building of Marching to Heaven. On camera, the women expose their buttocks—the ultimate show of disgust. They also hurl trademark snakes at the politicians. Infuriated at the display, The Ruler sends Machokali and Sikiokuu, his “eyes and ears,” to find and arrest the leader of the dissidents.

As the Wizard of the Crow, Kamt is soon busy with visits from all over Eldares. He eventually starts believing in his conjuring skills as he gains repeat customers. Because Kamt tells his customers only that their enemies will be struck down, without naming them, he leaves the door open for the person’s true enemy to emerge. Often these enemies turn out to be the people themselves.

The Ruler becomes tired of his sycophant Sikiokuu after he fails to gain the loan from the Global Bank. Resolved to see Marching to Heaven made a reality, The Ruler decides to seek monetary help from the United States. While there, he is struck with a sudden and mysterious illness that causes him to blow up like a balloon and float on the ceiling. The Wizard of the Crow is kidnapped from Aburiria and flown to New York to cure The Ruler.

Kamt’s diagnosis for The Ruler is simple: He is pregnant. Everyone, including The Ruler, is shocked. Kamt escapes New York and attends a meeting of the People’s Assembly. The hunt is on to capture the Wizard of the Crow and Nyawra. Kamt leads a prodemocracy demonstration and, claiming that Nyawra is merely a lover of freedom, encourages anyone who loves freedom to announce that they, too, are Nyawra. One by one, everyone at the assembly stands, claiming to be Nyawra. Suddenly, an explosion erupts within the State House; Kamt is shot, but the real Nyawra finds him and leads him to safety.

The blast in the State House is actually The Ruler, who has become so overblown with inner corruption that he explodes. Afterward, he is left with a forked, snakelike tongue. He announces on television that he was indeed pregnant because he is the same as the nation, and what they have both given birth to is multiparty democracy. The arrival of democracy, however, is accomplished in name only.

Finally, Tajirika, who has acquired a white arm and leg from a genetics clinic, convinces an angry mob that he is a deity and that The Ruler has ceded all power to him. In fact, Tajirika has killed The Ruler, and a new era arrives in Aburirian history: the Empire of Tajirika. Focusing on building the country into a new Rome, Tajirika fails to deliver on simple tasks such as garbage collection. As a result, the country is in an even worse state than before. Together, Kamt and Nyawra vow to keep fighting until true democracy becomes a reality for Aburiria.

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