Title: Queen of Swords
Author: Sara Donati
Published: 2006, Bantam
Category: Historical Fiction
Queen of Swords is the fifth book in Donati's Bonner family series. For those who aren't familiar with these books, they are a sort of sequel/retelling of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales about Natty Bumppo. I've never read those books, as I always heard they are unendurably long, but everyone knows the movie Last of the Mohicans. (Daniel Day Lewis!! Mee hee yummy) As I understand it, the movie pretty much massacred the original plot, but to give you some idea: Donati's books tell the story of DDL's son, Nathaniel, and his family. If you haven't read the first book, Into the Wilderness, I highly, highly recommend it. It is often compared to Diana Gabaldon's books, but it's better, imho. I do think they should be read in order: Into the Wilderness, Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire along the Sky, Queen of Swords.
Obviously this review has spoilers for earlier books. So be warned. :)
Nathaniel's two oldest children, Luke and Hannah, sail south to the Carribean to rescue Jennet, Luke's fiance, who was kidnapped by a pirate-sort of villain at the end of Fire along the Sky. They manage to rescue her, only to find out that Jennet has borne Luke's son during her captivity and has been forced to give him to a man named Honore Poiterin for safekeeping. Honore is a seriously bad guy, but Jennet had no choice. She agreed to marry Honore in exchange for him spiriting the child away to safety in New Orleans. Of course, she has no intention of actually marrying him. She and Luke are married and then they all head to New Orleans to rescue the baby. Complicating matters is the fact that New Orleans is currently the focal point of the War of 1812. So they have to find the baby, dodge the British soldiers, outwit Honore and find a way out of the city to head home to New York.
So lots of plot here. High adventure. I am horribly ignorant of the War of 1812. This book showed me that much. But as always with these books, it's obvious that a good deal of research went into it. There's lots of historical detail, and the story is nestled among the historical facts very comfortably. But to be honest, the plots of these books are never what make them favorites with me. I think this is a personal preference rather than a fault with the books. I just mean that I'm always slightly annoyed by all the complicated running around getting into horrible situations. And QoS is probably the most plot-filled one yet.
What I love about this and all the books of this series are the characters and the setting. I always have a mental picture in my head when I read books, but it's often pretty vague. Donati does such a wonderful job of description that I have this crystal-clear image of the characters and what they're doing and where they're doing it. Certain scenes are so vivid that they stick in my mind for a long time.
And I just love the characters. Each book has a huge number of them. Hannah might be my favorite of the whole series. Hannah is Nathaniel's half-Mohawk daughter from his first marriage. So intelligent, caring, idealistic but sensible, weathered by life experiences that would break most people (poor Hannah!!), she is the Queen of Swords: "A woman possessed of keen logic and intuition. Forthright is she in manner, and well armed." And Jean-Benoit Savard, who is introduced in this book, is such a good match for her. He is so capable and wise.
I'm really excited about the 6th book, which I believe Donati is just starting to write. It's to be set in Paradise (the small village in upstate New York where the Bonners live) and focus on Nathaniel and Elizabeth's youngest children--Daniel, Gabriel and Carrie. This is a good thing, as I always like the stories set in Paradise best. Reading QoS put me in the mood for Into the Wilderness, so I've been rereading that all weekend. Hmmmm. Lovely.