WAR WOMAN by Robert Conley

WAR WOMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Conley (Mountain Windsong, 1992, etc.) continues to recreate and celebrate the history of the Cherokee people in fiction with this episodic, speculative story of War Woman and her adventures in the colonial period. Young Whirlwind becomes a witch in order to compensate for the ridicule she receives because her father was a Spaniard. She demonstrates her supernatural prowess by taming rattlesnakes and tornadoes. On a self-motivated expedition to open trade between her village of New Town and the Spanish colonists in Florida, she establishes relations with a benevolent commandant; but then her people are attacked by a wicked Spanish captain and his henchmen. Whirlwind proves her war-like abilities and is soon renamed War Woman. Twenty quiet years pass, and then the Spanish, in search of gold, arrive in New Town. The peaceful Cherokee cooperate reluctantly in the quest. Their fear of prolonged contact with the Europeans seem borne out when some of their young men, including Little Spaniard, War Woman's twin brother, fall helplessly into alcoholism. In the meantime, however, War Woman marries one of the Spanish traders, and the two peoples maintain a wary peace. The plot jumps forward again, to the moment when War Woman, now very old, uses her powers and wisdom to help her people struggle against the encroachment of English colonists from Jamestown. Though their victories are satisfying, they are not permanent, and the fate of the Cherokees seems sealed. Throughout the book, characterization lags behind a plodding plot, wooden dialogue, and little convincing historical detail. The Cherokee are universally brave, strong, handsome, noble, moral, and honest; the Europeans are avaricious, lecherous, crude, insensitive, cowardly, and criminal. There's much idealization here, but very little compelling description.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's