Monday, April 27, 2015

Woods Runner: Massacre at Schenectady 1690 by Rejean Giguere

Release Date: February 15, 2015
Publisher: Smashwords
Author Website:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Before the countries of North America had their present boundaries, the lands and water between Canada and the US were under the control of the French and the English respectively during the late 17th century. Alongside these new settlers were the various Native American tribes, each with their own customs and ways of maintaining their territories. It was into this strange mix of old and new worlds that Jean Baptiste Giguere was born and raised to become a Woods Runner, or an explorer who'd help to shape the new worlds in the coming years.

Once a settlement on the French side was attacked, Jean Baptiste signed up to avenge the deaths of the innocent and followed a long line of soldiers, other woods runners and even Native Americans into battle on the land claimed by the English. But in the whirl of axes, clouds of gunsmoke and flashes of knives, he began to feel as though he made the wrong decision. The long march back home gave him plenty of opportunity to go over everything in his mind as the weather conspired to keep them on the road longer than anticipated with surprises along the way. Can the entire column reach before it's too late? Will Jean Baptiste be able to live with what he's done and seen?

I was contacted by the author and asked to read this book in order to give it a fair and honest review. Needless to say, his email intrigued me when he included a passage about the novel's inspiration being his research into his family tree. Combining two of my favorite ways to pass time into one book, I was hooked by the time I finished the end of the first chapter. I needed to know more about Jean Baptiste and why he was with a large column of people marching through winter to enact revenge. It seemed a stiff penalty for whatever the English had done to the French - which wasn't revealed until the end of the book.

Jean Baptiste was the main character of the book. He was joined by two Native Americans which he considered brothers. Kitchi was a member of the Algonquin tribe, while Okemos was from the Sault tribe. Jean Baptiste, or Etchemin as he was known by the Saults, came to know both of the tribes as he spent more than half a year with each during his training to become a Woods Runner. The first introductions and the first time Jean Baptiste stayed with the Natives were pretty comical, especially when he stumbled over certain traditions and competitions that the Algonquin held. There were also some funny moments when he joined the Sault tribe, but not as many once he noticed that both tribes shared similar traditions. Many secondary characters filled the ranks of friends, family and enemies. Each group had their own distinct way of working in the fields or taking care of their families based upon their different belief systems. Yet, the strange mix of people worked well together until they were put under the increasing amount of stress during the return home from a long march during the harsh winter storms.

The overall story is broken into three periods of time - becoming a woods runner, heading south and heading north. Each of these periods were mingled throughout the book, but denoted at the beginning of each section along with the date. Although these sections weave in and out of the timeline, the overall story flowed well from past to present and back again. The pace of the story started strong and stayed very steady until the last word. Plenty of action kept the soldiers, Natives and woods runners moving on their trek to the English territory and back home. At times I wasn't sure which of their enemies was the worst - the weather, the warring tribes on their trail or the marching men themselves. Despite the grimness of the march, the author layered scenic descriptions around the action which helped to ease the long walk home. Along with the flashbacks to Jean Baptiste's beginnings as a woods runner, the land and large bodies of water played as much a role in the book as the characters themselves.

I really enjoyed this book for a few reasons. I liked that the inspiration was the author's own ancestor and what that ancestor may have had to endure during his lifetime. From doing research into my own family tree, I know that after a certain point in history that records become scarce. A lot of details were lost when not passed down through oral or written tradition. The author was able to recreate what might have been through research, creating a believable, unexplored world with characters easy to relate to and root for. There were many times that I forgot I was reading fiction because the author did a great job making them come to life. I also thought the balance between action and adventure was near perfect. It was so easy to keep reading whenever I needed to stop because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters next. I will say one thing about the ending. I'm glad that there were some avenues left open. I'm excited to see what will be in store for Jean Baptiste and his exploration party. If you're looking for some historical fiction with plenty of action and adventure, then this is the book you need to get on your TBR list.

Woods Runner: Massacre at Schenectady 1690 by Rejean Giguere is currently available at many online retailers in either paperback and digital formats. The following link will take you to the book's page at Amazon.
Woods Runner: Massacre at Schenectady 1690 by Rejean Giguere

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