Assegai is a story of intrigue, hunting, love and war in British colonial Africa. Leon Courtney is a young ex-army officer turned professional hunter, whose task eventually becomes to prevent British ruled countries in Africa from becoming German ruled countries. The story is set in pre-World War I British East Africa. Leon leaves the army after a foray with the Nandi tribe and after his first meeting with Lusima Mama, who is a Masai sangoma or witch doctor. Lusima is a pivotal figure throughout the saga.
On leaving the army, Leon decides he would like to become a professional hunter and, with the assistance of his uncle, General Penrod Ballantyne, gains employment with Percy Phillips. Penrod asks Leon to spy for the British Government by getting information regarding Germany's plans from German hunters.
Leon learns quickly and has a string of safaris, including one with Teddy Roosevelt and his son, Kermit. Count Otto Van Meerbach arrives with his mistress, Eva Von Wellberg. He is an exceptionally powerful German industrialist, who owns a company which manufactures planes, transport and weapons and is friends with the Kaiser. Graf Otto has not only come to Africa to hunt but to acquire the support of embittered survivors of the Anglo-Boer war when Germany inevitably declares war.
Leon falls hopelessly in love with Eva and discovers she is actually a British spy. Otto and Eva leave Africa and then Otto plots his return. He uses an airship, called Assegai, to carry the gold and arms needed to arm the Germans and Afrikaners against the British. Leon thwarts his plan and is now free to marry Eva.
Best part of story, including ending:
Wilbur Smith paints a colorful picture of life in British East Africa before World War I. He incorporates real characters with fictional ones and introduces the reader to the landscape and the people that lived there at the time and their way of life.
Best scene in story:
One of the best scenes is the flight in Butterfly which takes the central characters on a flight over the Great Rift Valley in search of elephant.
Opinion about the main character:
Leon's perseverance and determination are to be admired. He tirelessly goes after the enemy and the love of his life, without regard for his own safety.