Although dense with brambly nomenclature and drifts of remote ritual and belief, Kotker's recreation of the doomed 1675 war waged by the confederation of New England's Wampanoag Indians--""King Philip's War""--is a vivid portrait of the ""great man"" Metacomet (Philip), whose consciousness encompassed the immensity of a people's loss. Throughout, Metacomet is a man in conflict. Even when three of his men are executed by the English, he delays war, particularly after a conference with Englishmen for whom he has respect. But Metacomet cannot contain rampaging warriors, and the first blood is shed. Grisly triumphs and a terrible winter follow, as Metacomet confronts dualities: the warring gods of unalterable fate and treacherous trickery; his own identity as great man and his ambitions to be ""wise man"" in tune with the gods; the glorious plans for his people and his failure; even his hands--one good, the other crippled. Eventually, Metacomet will lead his people from their land Pocasset to the north and west, hunting alliances ""to bind a new people""--but many have become lulled and passive by English goods and protection against the Mohawks. The warriors are decimated and diverted by deceptions, cross alliances, desertions, betrayals. And at the close Metacomet awaits death from English guns. With clear underlinings of good and evil cross-cultural impulses (there are telling glimpses of a houseful of English under Indian attack)--a stark, demanding historical novel which offers a plausible, attractive, destiny-driven hero in a fascinating, hopeless situation.