I chose to read this book for Rosie’s book review team because my knowledge of the French and Indian Wars is limited to what I learned reading The Last of the Mohegans by James Fennimore Cooper and Northwest Passage by a Maine author I revere: Kenneth Roberts. I hoped to increase my knowledge with Clash of Empires and the book did not disappoint.
This first book, The Mallory Saga, is modestly described as follows: “In 1750, the Mallory family moved to the western Pennsylvania frontier, seeking a home and a future. Clash of Empires reveals the harrowing experiences of a colonial family drawn into the seven-year conflict between the British and French for control of the continent – the French and Indian War.”
What an understatement this blurb is! The book is so much more, populated by three-dimensional characters, embedded in a story that has you on the edge of your seat wondering when the next tomahawk will fall, and stimulating me to do a little more reading on the various historical events.
By 1754, both the British and the French were well established in the ‘New World,’ and families from England were encouraged to go there for a better life, with the promise of land. Both France and Britain ignored the fact this land was already inhabited by many Native American tribes, treating them more or less like wayward children, plying them with gifts or promises never kept to pay them for their land. The Mallory family from Ireland is already established in Eastern Pennsylvania, when Thomas decided to move his family to the western frontier. At this time, the frontier is just west of the Allegheny mountains and in French- controlled territory. They establish a trading post on the Kiskiminetas River, a tributary of the Allegheny River in western Pennsylvania. Hard to think of western Pennsylvania as wilderness!
Mallory brings friends with him, all of them interesting, and the author draws the reader into the harshness of life on the frontier, especially with rumors swirling of raids by the French and their allies, the Shawnee, to destroy British forts and English settlements. The Mallory family – daughter Liza and sons Daniel and Liam – each have a story line that winds in and out of strategic events that marked this period. There are losses of people along the way to the brutality of war at that time, and I found myself grieving right along with the other characters. The main story line concerns Liam, a wanderer by nature, who is adopted by a Mohawk tribe and marries the chief’s daughter. He acquires two mortal enemies amongst the Shawnee, much like Hawkeye’s deadly enemy Magua in The Last of the Mohegans, and his story is one of anger and revenge.
From this novel comes a comprehension of the vast and different tribes of Native Americans and one can’t help but wonder how different the story might have been if there had been any respect and understanding of their cultures. The reader also gets the sense of the early beginnings of this country, and the courage of settlers to put their lives on the line for the promise of a better life for their families.
The history is excellent, weaving in the events of the war and historical figures – such as the young George Washington, Daniel Boone, and the British Generals Braddock and Munro – to create a real world, worth visiting.
I very much look forward to the next novel in this series.