Cane Warriors

Written by Alex Wheatle
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

Jamaica, 1760. Fourteen-year-old Moa Umbassa is a field slave on a sugar plantation, overworked, underfed, and brutalized at the whim of cruel overseers and masters. When the revolutionary, Tacky, starts a slave rebellion, Moa joins the fight. His father advises against it, but his mother supports him. Moa and sixteen-year-old Keverton fight along with the older men, sharing all the violence and hardship of the gallant, doomed revolt. The older men send Moa home before his participation is discovered. He teams up with twelve-year-old Hamaya, a young girl trying to escape the attentions of the white masters. With his mother’s blessing, Moa and Hamaya leave the plantation while they still can, while things are still chaotic. They will try to make their way to freedom in the mountains.

This is a harrowing young adult novel; still, it is based on true history, and the story needs to be told. The brave freedom fighters of Tacky’s Rebellion should be remembered and honored.

The dialogue throughout is written in heavy dialect, which will slow readers down. It is worth sticking to it and picking up the flow of the words, which add cadence and poetry to the writing style. Recommended.