cover image The Serpent Never Sleeps: A Novel of Jamestown and Pocahontas

The Serpent Never Sleeps: A Novel of Jamestown and Pocahontas

Scott O'Dell, Ted Lewin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $17 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-395-44242-5

This latest historical novel by the award-winning author transports readers from a lavish 17th century English castle across the Atlantic to a shipwreck off Bermuda and finally to the struggling early settlement at Jamestown. As always, O'Dell writes seamlessly about historical settings. His young protagonist, a castle maid, Serena Lynn, follows nobleman Anthony Foxcroft to the New World; when he is killed, she hopes to return to England before deciding that her life is in America. A stream of dramatic action makes this story mostly compelling to read, but Pocahontas, appearing long after her famous encounter with Captain Smith, befriends Serena too late to provide a strong climax to the tale. Despite this, the novel provides a spinning sense of immediacy with underplayed but key events: the arrival of King James's English translation of the Bible in Jamestown; the near-constant debate of settlers as to whether to face a hazardous journey back to England or the bleak-looking future in the New World. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (September)