The fourth entry in the Bone Rattler series advances the protagonist Duncan McCallum to 1765 and into the throes of the Stamp Tax dissent, which marked the beginning of organised resistance to English rule. Duncan follows ritualistic murders that are strangely connected to both the theft of an Iroquois artefact and a series of murders and kidnappings in the network of secret runners supporting the nascent committees of correspondence—which are engaged in the first organised political dissent across colonial borders. He encounters a powerful conspiracy of highly placed English aristocrats who are bent on crushing all dissent, is captured by its agents, and sent into slavery in Virginia beside the kidnapped runners. Inspired by an aged native American slave and new African friends Duncan decides not just to escape but to turn their own intrigue against the London lords.
Included in the novel’s cast of characters are figures from our history who have their own destinies to fulfil in the next decade, including Benjamin Franklin (writing from London), Samuel Adams, the early Pennsylvania rebel James Smith, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and, very briefly, a soft spoken militia officer named Washington. The Blood of the Oak takes a fresh view on the birth of the new American nation, suggesting that the “freedom” that became the centrepiece of the Revolution was uniquely American, rising not just from unprecedented political discourse but also from the extraordinary bond with the natural world experienced by frontier settlers and native tribes.
I love historical novels and I have a keen interest in American history so I was delighted when I was offered this title for review.
Pattison deftly weaves a fictional tale steeped in historical facts and Native American mysticism. The blood curdling violence in the story added to the suspense as it reflected the savagery that I associate with that time and place.
I found the story engaging from the beginning however the reader needs to take time time to appreciate the complexity of the plot and the intricacy of the clues dotted throughout.
The Blood of the Oak has received many 5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I am in the minority with allotting it 3 stars.
It is a lengthy book and I found the language style used, although reminiscent of the period, quite difficult and tedious to read. It slowed the pace of the novel for me which meant that I lost interest in various places along the way. I understood and appreciated the literary references e.g to Shakespeare however I could never fully immerse myself in the story as I had to work harder to process what I was reading. The long list of characters from various backgrounds and allegiances was also a challenge as I had not read the previous books. I think I would have had a better connection to the story and the characters if I had started from the beginning.