An American deserts Queen Victoria's army to cast his lot with Maoris fighting to keep their rightful share of New Zealand--in another historical novel by the author of Season of the Jew (1987), etc. Wary readers will encounter none of the bogus reverence that is the curse of most American aboriginal epics in this dry, mildly overlong story of the Maoris' hopeless fight to hold off total European settlement and dominance of their island. The only American touch is the point of view of Kimball Bent, a Maine man who flees the mindless cruelty of the British army that is policing New Zealand's young coastal settlements and runs haphazardly into the arms of rebellious tribes in the hinterlands. Bent had hoped to make it to the South Island gold fields, but the Maoris have other uses for him, and he is required to remain with them. Bent is the furthest thing from Kevin Costner's moony surfin' wolf dancer. Baffled by tribal politics and thoroughly revolted by ceremonial cannibalism, the unsentimental Yankee wants only to get out of the forest and then maybe back to Maine. Skirmish after skirmish with the British gradually wears him down until his loyalties shift to the Maoris. He never gets the hang of cannibalism (most of the Maoris are equally put off), but he does begin to hanker for a chief warrior's daughter who finds him not too unattractive as scrawny white men go. Bent is witness to a string of clever Maori victories that eventually--and very sadly--founder on the wicked rocks of family passions. Clever and unpretentious, remarkable for the subtle anti-touristic depiction of the islands and the natives. Suffers occasionally--but not fatally--from low blood pressure.