A sprawling historical drama chronicling the Colonial history of Louisiana.
Mukta, an African man aboard a slave ship in the mid-18th century, allies himself with the slavers and is rewarded with relative freedom. Yet when the ship arrives at the slave market, Mukta’s master sells him on a whim. Metoyer’s novel is filled with such cruelty—betrayals, bloody battles, sexual violence, etc. Multiple, diverse perspectives tell a range of stories. In one scene, Two Dog, a Native American of the Natchez people, has a seemingly supernatural experience in a temple; soon after, French adventurer St. Denis rides a boat into the wilderness and wonders whether his men will be ambushed. Where the author excels are his depictions of people and places long extinct. He sprinkles authentic foreign words into dialogue and colorfully describes indigenous villages, local dances, and customs. While Metoyer capably describes the elaborate power plays of early Louisiana, his descriptions of daily life are vivid and often graphic. Toward the end of the novel, St. Denis’ wife, Emanuelle, encounters a young man named Robert Trevor; within minutes they struggle to contain their passion. Throughout the novel, Metoyer reminds readers that the Natchez are headhunters, and their social order is divided into a rigid class system. Each ethnic group is deeply suspicious of the others, and tempers are often deadly. Many characters occupy a moral gray area: Mukta is a slave, but he also molests the women aboard the slave ship. St. Denis is mostly honorable, but he leads expeditions that eventually destroy the indigenous communities. Metoyer doesn’t gloss over the brutality of the age. His enormous cast of characters is as selfish and merciless as their historical inspirations.
Exhaustively researched and unflinching in its descriptions, bringing early America to life while shedding light on some of its least remembered founders.