Set in Florida and South Carolina between 1704 and 1715, this richly-textured story follows the intertwined lives of Native American, Spanish, and British characters and is especially noteworthy for its portrayal of the little-known institution of Indian slavery in colonial America. When the novel opens, Spanish missionaries have settled in the Apalachee homeland of what is now the Florida panhandle, ravaging the native population with disease and altering its culture with Christianity. Through the person of Hinachuba Lucia, an Apalachee wise woman, the story moves to the beginnings of the South Carolina colony, and the clashes between the English settlers and enemy Native American groups.
The fact that this book is published by an academic press is a good sign right from the start. Clearly a meticulous researcher, Hudson does the reader an additional service by providing notes at the end to differentiate historical fact from her fiction. The large cast of characters is a little hard to keep track of, due more to their numbers than lack of three-dimensionality – like a large party where you don’t get a chance to talk to everyone, but don’t doubt that they all have full lives and histories. Hudson does not flinch from showing all aspects of slavery – bad, worse, and worst. This makes some episodes hard to read, but all the more immediate, and it’s never done out of pure sensationalism.