Guide to Sieges of South Africa, by Nicki von der Heyde

Mention sieges in the South African context and two or three will come to mind: Mafeking, Ladismith and Kimberley. But it appears our history is littered with sieges, going back in this volume to the siege of Durban in 1842, followed by those in the frontier wars of the Eastern Cape. Nicki von der Heyde, a specialist battlefields guide and author of Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa, says this book springs naturally from that one. She writes that while sieges and battles may take place in the context of the same war, sieges are different in that often civilians are involved, civilians with the time to write journals and letters. Each of the sieges in the book is placed in context and then described, complete with human stories, maps and photographs, additional reading and what you can expect at the site today.

Season of Crimson Blossoms, by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Cassava Republic)

A story of an affair between a 55-year-old widow and grandmother and a 25-year-old drug dealer in northern Nigeria is likely to end in trouble, and it does. Binta, the widow, is seeking intimacy and love after an oppressive marriage, while Reza wants to mitigate the pain of estrangement from his own mother. But Reza is also a leader of a gang of misfits, outcasts and thugs, and when his and Binta’s worlds collide, disaster follows. This debut novel was described by South African author Zoe Wicomb: “Elegantly, and with compassion for the powerless, Ibrahim gives us unique insight into contemporary Nigerian society. This is a novel to be savoured.”

Spire, by Fiona Snyckers (Clockwork Books/ Helco)

Surgeon and virologist Dr Caroline Burchell is spending the Antarctic winter at Spire, the South Pole International Research Establishment. She’s alarmed when a scientist at Spire needs to be ventilated after his breathing shuts down. Soon there are more patients. It turns out a box of mutated and cryogenically frozen viruses has been brought to Spire, and within days people are dying of diseases, from smallpox to others that haven’t been seen since the Middle Ages. A polar storm descends and there is no chance of outside help, but then Caroline discovers there are worse things than being virtually alone in one of the most desolate spots on Earth. This is a sequel of South African author Fiona Snyckers’ novel Now Following You.