Friday, February 21, 2014

Original Death

From the Publisher: Despite the raging war between French and British, Scottish exile Duncan McCallum has begun to settle into a new life on the fringes of colonial America, traveling the woodlands with his companion Conawago, even joining the old Indian on his quest to find the last surviving members of his tribe. But the joy they feel on reaching the little settlement of Christian Indians is shattered when they find its residents ritually murdered. As terrible as the deaths may be, Conawago perceives something even darker and more alarming: he is convinced they are a sign of a terrible crisis in the spirit world which he must resolve.

Trying to make sense of the murders, Duncan is accused by the British army of the crime. Escaping prison to follow the trail of evidence, he finds himself hounded by vengeful soldiers and stalked by Scottish rebels who are mysteriously trying to manipulate the war to their advantage. As he pieces together the puzzle of violence and deception he gradually realizes that it may not only be the lives of Duncan and his friends that hang in the balance, but the very survival of the native tribes. When he finally discovers the terrible truth, Duncan is forced to make a fateful choice between his beloved Highland clans and the woodland natives who have embraced and protected him.

I'm a sucker for a good Scottish protagonist and the idea of a book set in the French and Indian War I found to be intriguing. I had a hard time getting drawn in, but I'm so glad I stuck it out. While it is part of a series, it has the ability to stand alone and tell it's tale. I now want to get "caught up" and see how the main characters develop. If there's one thing I love more than a good Scottish protagonist, it's a great back story.
Original Death begins with Duncan McCallum and his companion Conawago traveling to meet the latter's long lost nephew. Conawago is one of the last of his tribe; a Nipmuc. He has traveled the world and is anxious to meet the last of his family: his nephew Hickory John and Hickory John's grandson, Ishmael. As the men travel they discover a dead Highland Regiment soldier, are shot at by smugglers, and discover a massacre. All within the first chapter! The two friends arrive to find the town slaughtered, with Hickory John as one of the dead. Several children are missing, as well as Ishmael and the schoolmaster. So begins a fantastical journey filled with so many plot twits that you'll eventually just fall off the edge of your seat as Duncan and helpers work against the clock and war to save the kidnapped children. Along the way they encounter a charge of murder, a half-king who's execution of choice is the "five day death," the Iroquois council, a Welsh witch that even the natives are afraid of, restless spirits, Jacobites, and a few priests thrown in for good measure. Duncan may not always be the flashy hero, but his brilliant and steadfast. Even when faced with the opportunity of revenge against the English, he chooses his journey to save the children. In a book that has so many layers of deception, you come to rely on Duncan's decency. You want Duncan on your side.

The French and Indian War is not a time in our history that I'm familiar with, so at times I felt like I struggled to keep up with a rather large cast of supporting characters, some real people. While I love a good plot twist,  I felt like there were so many revelations that they lost some of their sizzle. Overall I think it's a fantastic read that is fresh and inventive while still finding room for history.

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****4 Stars I really liked this book!

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