Friday Reviews: Once A Warrior by Anthony Neil Smith

Once a Warrior

Anthony Neil Smith

In the two years since the events of All the Young Warriors, would-be jihadist Adem has come home to America, gone back to school, and decided to forget he was ever “Mr. Mohammed,” negotiator for Somali pirates. His father, Mustafa, works at Target. Or did until he had a spat with management, getting himself fired. Unfortunately, Adem isn’t in American anymore to help out. Why?

Under the guise of making a pilgrimage to Mecca to bolster his new-found faith, Adem has gone in search of Sufia, the girl he left behind. He finds clues, using his old identity to fish for information. But it turns out to be a trap. Many people want him to become Mr. Mohammed again: A terrorist, a pirate leader, and the CIA all have their reasons. Adem soon finds himself trapped by forces beyond his control, forced to play a part he despises simply to survive. Worse, a CIA operative reveals Sufia’s true nature: She hates Adem and hates America and simply wants to fight the holy war. But Mustafa has a plan of his own. His niece has been sold into slavery as a prostitute. Mustafa takes over his old gang, the Southside Killaz, to get her back.

Neither Adem nor Mustafa are really that good at making decisions. Adem’s scrapes with death and runs from those trying to control him reflect an inability to realize he’s been watched from the moment he returned to America and is still being watched. Mustafa starts a gang war he has no plan to end all to recover a girl who might have been sold away for reasons he does not want to fathom. In Mustafa’s case, people die trying to help him for reasons he can’t quite grasp (much to their frustration.) Both men are single-minded on a vision of themselves as heroes trying to save a damsel in distress. It’s sort of like Don Quixote jumping into a gang war with no Sancho to back him up.