Killer of Crying Deer
In 1669, an abducted youth is shipwrecked in the Florida Keys. Readers entering Henry’s world will encounter an unrelentingly detailed envisioning of the moods and moments of tropical life. It is hard to imagine a more finely crafted lens into 17th– century Florida.
In his ordeal of survival and character growth, Henry becomes the central figure in both a visceral pirate plot, and a more cosmic, if arduous, period of education and romance among the Calusa tribe. Henry is an abducted aristocrat who interacts with indigenes, Spaniards, and other less tangible forces. Through his observant eyes, Orem creates a stunning tableau, and it is hard to imagine any lover of pirate adventure or crystalline prose who wouldn’t appreciate this book. Chiseled though its style might be, the narrative is far too rich to be pigeonholed as an Indian-friendly Treasure Island. In its central sequence of short chapters, the novel is kaleidoscopic in its representations of indigenous life, and adept at articulating Henry’s spiritual journey through them. Much of the interior narrative is devoted to Henry’s romance with a girl called Speaking Owl, and Orem gives us much to admire in the sure-handed strokes with which he develops this amity.
Readers should be prepared for possible impressions of formlessness. Chapters begin to shift points of view freely, unpredictably, in an ever-growing series of related events. The vividness of the world he describes, however, and the continuously building significance of Henry’s experiences easily carry the reader along. Just when we couldn’t be any further out in this early Floridian dreamscape, the narrative reverts to the pirate plot with tremendous momentum and drama. This type of return of the very bad guys, places the previous sequence in sharply contrasting perspective. This clash is the book’s most impressive scene. When a book reinvents its genre like this, it is certain to reward close attention.