Maring’s (The Mullahs, 2012, etc.) first historical novel in a planned trilogy is an ambitious, imaginative account of tribes and settlers on the South Carolina coast.
After a modern-day archaeologist finds a Viking artifact on the bluffs of the Waccamaw River, wheels are set in motion for a twisting, multifaceted tale set in a beautiful coastal region in what is now the American South. The story flashes back to the year 1200: A young maiden, Ingri, is infatuated with Viking sailor Baldar, so she sneaks onto his merchant ship, which is headed for the Norwegian coast. The two eventually marry, and after a harrowing series of events, including storms at sea, the ship ends up in Winyah Bay in the new world. Once on shore, the settlers meet the Winyah tribe, and they soon learn each other’s language and forge alliances. The white people eventually intermarry with the Winyah, creating a new tribe of natives, including some with light skin and reddish hair. Maring’s prose is smooth, but his cast of characters is dizzying, as many quickly come and go—including the Welsh addition to the gene pool, a woman named Ava, who marries Baldar’s son, Kendar. Spaniards arrive later, under the leadership of Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon. The book has no sole protagonist, but there are some compelling characters, such as a Winyah slave, Francisco Chicora, who’s paraded through Spain as a “savage” before Lucas Vazquez helps him attain freedom and return home. Another strong character is an African slave, Sepo, who attempts to defend herself from rape by stabbing a slave captain with a letter opener. Unfortunately, her role is minor, and most of the story’s other females are one-dimensional, beautiful maidens. By the book’s conclusion in 1679, some characters are long forgotten. Overall, however, readers will likely enjoy Maring’s portraits of adventure on the high seas and struggles to survive in a new world.
An intriguing story, despite some bland characterizations, with a colorful historical backdrop.