War Woman: A Novel of the Real People

Robert J. Conley, Author St. Martin's Press $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-17058-5
Three-time Spur Award-winning western novelist Conley (The Dark Island) delves into the history and legend of his own Cherokee people (the ""Real People"" of the subtitle) in this gripping, convincingly imagined historical. Three dimly recorded incidents form the heart of the book: the acquisition of firearms by the Cherokees; the mining of gold in Cherokee country by early Spanish colonists; and the Cherokee defeat of English settlers in Virginia. It is Conley's conceit that each of these three events can be linked to one extraordinary woman. The granddaughter of a Spanish conquistador, 16-year-old Whirlwind longs to see the legendary, feared foreigners, and she persuades her brother and another youth to accompany her on a perilous journey to Florida to trade with the Europeans. The mission ends in a bittersweet triumph for the girl, who is renamed War Woman for her cunning and bravery; 20 years later, these qualities help her negotiate mining rights with the treacherous Spanish. Even in old age, War Woman shows her undiminished battle prowess when she leads an expedition into Virginia, settles an abandoned village and defends her people from the hostile British. War Woman's life is told with page-turning verve, as Conley uses his extensive knowledge of Cherokee life and culture to spin a lively, informed piece of speculative history. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/03/1997
Release date: 11/01/1997
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