Monday 12 June 2017

Catfish Pearl by Ruth Francisco

Amazon UK £2.31 £9.62
Amazon US $2.98 $11.99

Coming of Age / American Settlement / Nautical
17th century
North America

Savagely taken from her mother’s womb during a 1665 Apalachee raid in La Florida, Luisa grows up more like her adopted brothers than a female of the tribe. At twelve years of age, her tomboyish stunts and aptitude for numbers convince Fray Tomás that she should learn the ways of the Spaniards, to be a proper lady. Her latest stunt, revealed by her jealous cousin, goes too far beyond the proprieties of the Apalachee, and her father sends her away from the tribe to do the bidding of a vicious Spanish woman. Forbidden to use her Indian name, Luisa equates her punishment to slavery.

When news arrives of her favorite brother’s impending nuptials, Luisa secures permission to attend. She arrives too late to travel with her family and must make her own way to the bride’s village. A third tribe attacks, her father and many others are killed, and she is among the captives who are traded to an Englishman for weapons.

Taken to the Carolinas, Luisa is sold into slavery. During the auction a bidding war pits her new master against another man, who wants to sell her to a Jamaican brothel. Luisa’s only hope is to escape, but her family is gone. She has no village to return to. The troubles between the various tribes, inflamed by both the English and the Spanish, make La Florida a dangerous destination. And the loser of the slave auction is a determined man, who will do whatever he must to own her, no matter how long it takes.

The multiple points of view and numerous subplots – some of which are left unresolved because they will be dealt with in future stories about Luisa – make this a long book, but the author’s purpose is to show Luisa’s natural progression from being raised among the Apalachee to becoming a pirate. She admirably achieves this goal, although a few switches of perspective are a bit jarring and some storylines could have waited until later books. There are a few formatting issues, such as extra spaces within words, but Luisa is a compelling character and the story engages the reader, rarely loosening its grip until the last page is turned.

Told from a variety of perspectives – principally those of Luisa, Fray Tomás (a Franciscan missionary), and Henry Woodard (an English surgeon turned trader) – Catfish Pearl is a story of greed, ambition, faith, jealousy, treachery, growing up, and adapting to what life throws at you.

Set during a brutal period when Spain and England use the native peoples to gain footholds in the New World. While the language is at times raunchy and character actions shock modern sensitivities, Francisco portrays them realistically in a vividly recreated period in Florida’s history.


Review Copyrighted ©2017 by Cindy Vallar

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  1. Aha, a lady pirate - Helen had better not introduce her to Jesamiah. His ladylove might not approve. ;-)

  2. No Tiola would not - she knows all too well what Jes is like! *laugh* I'm looking forward to this one, it sounds a bit different and interesting


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