New World

Written by Chris Priestley
Review by Ann Turnbull

Fourteen-year-old Kit Milton is a street urchin and thief with a secret: he is the son of a Catholic gentleman who was executed for treason – and in 1584 Catholics were hated and feared. Kit’s adventures on the streets of London lead him to John White, a mapmaker and artist, who offers him a job as his assistant. When White is asked to accompany an expedition to Virginia to set up a colony there, Kit goes with him.

The second part of the book takes place in Virginia – and I found this part far more interesting than the mystery surrounding the betrayal of Kit’s father. Kit encounters new places, animals and birds, and is fascinated by the native inhabitants of the New World and their customs. He soon comes to have more respect for these quiet, self-sufficient people than for the English soldiers who crash about noisily and threaten the Indians with guns. There is a hint of romance between Kit and an Indian girl, which is touching and believable. The Indians are realistically portrayed, with the same capacity for violence and deceit as the Europeans; but inevitably the English settlers are the aggressors, and when they plot to deceive and attack the Indians Kit is torn and tries to prevent the inevitable disaster. He also discovers that he has an enemy from his past in the colony.

This is a story where the emphasis is on action rather than character development, and readers who like a well-paced adventure story will enjoy it. There is some fine description of the scenery and wildlife of the New World, and the book is carefully researched and full of interesting detail. I liked the maps at the beginning and the notes at the end about the real historical characters.