Willow Smith’s debut novel Black Shield Maiden is set to publish this May with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Co-written by Jess Hendel, the book is a powerful historical saga about an African warrior in a Viking world.

Although the idea of a Viking-Africa combo sounds great at first glance, it turns out that there might be some problematic misrepresentations of African tribes in the text. The book follows a young Ghanaian warrior who was stolen from her home and brought to the world of the Vikings, where she meets a princess who becomes her kindred spirit.

An excerpt published in 2022 describes a market scene at the beginning of the novel where the main character is present with her family. However, the book introduces the Muslim traders at the market through a negative light. The authors write, “The Amazigh are dangerous on their best day. They have little regard for anyone who doesn’t worship the Muslim god — and even their own tribes are always at war with one another.”

There are many more such descriptions included in the excerpt and it is difficult to read, especially when it comes from a major celebrity such as Willow Smith. People on Twitter condemned Willow for propagative these stereotypes and it was quite a scandal at the time. Read the full excerpt here.

The book was originally set to be published in October 2022, but the publication date eventually got pushed to May 2024. This is probably because the excerpt led to Willow Smith getting canceled on Twitter for this negative portrayal of Muslims and the Amazigh tribe.

Two years have passed by since the problematic excerpt and the controversy has died down. But have the actual writing and misrepresentations changed? We shall see. Let us know what you think Willow’s book will be like in the comments below. Yay or nay?

In the meantime, read the full synopsis below:

Lore, legend, and history tell us of the Vikings: warrior kings on epic journeys of conquest and plunder. But the stories we know are not the only stories to tell. There is another story, one that has been lost to the mists of time: the saga of the dark queen.

This saga begins with Yafeu, a defiant yet fiercely compassionate young warrior who is stolen from her home in the flourishing Ghānaian empire and taken to a distant kingdom in the North. There she is thrust into a strange, cold world of savage shield maidens, tyrannical rulers, and mysterious gods.

And there she also finds something unexpected: a kindred spirit. She comes to serve Freydis, a shy princess who couldn’t be more different from the confident and self-possessed Yafeu.

But they both want the same thing: to forge their own fate. Yafeu inspires Freydis to dream of a future greater than the one that the king and queen have forced upon her. And with the princess at her side, Yafeu learns to navigate this new world and grows increasingly determined to become one of the legendary shield maidens—to fight not only for her freedom but for the freedom of others.

Yafeu may have lost her home, but she still knows who she is, and she’s not afraid to be the flame that burns a city to the ground so a new world can rise from the ashes. She will alter the course of history—and become the revolutionary heroine of her own myth.

Preorder here.