By: S. Thomas Bailey
Publisher: Friesen Press
Publication Date: April 1013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 4, 2013
Jacob Murray often longed for the companionship of his twin, Isaac, a man who had been burnt alive at Fort Necessity. Perhaps Isaac more than anyone could understand what he was going through. The wilderness was unforgiving and loss almost seemed to be an inevitable fact of life. Jacob longed more than anything for his wife Maggie and his children. The cabin had been burned to the ground and the children undoubtedly had been captured by the Huron. Perhaps there was little hope for his children, but when Jacob sank his knife into the ugly merchant's shoulder, revenge could be his at last for the one who had stolen his wife.
"That English woman," Monsieur LaMont snarled, "is mine. She is my property and will be shipped to Quebec with the rest of my goods." It would be a life of drudgery, little higher than one of a slave for Maggie, and Jacob had to fight for her. His knife hit the mark, but only did enough damage to land him in the stockade at Fort Dusquesne. The French merchant had won, but only this one round. Maggie was headed toward the fort at Niagara, accompanied by a young French soldier, Frederick Duval. Their once idyllic home and life in Pennsylvania was no more as the winds of war were aimed toward Fort Dusquesne at the Forks of Ohio.
Little could Maggie have known that Jacob was a deserter, but there was one man who knew. "My duty is to take this man back and see him hang under a British flag," barked Stuart, a compatriot from his old regiment. But then again the French were more than willing to string him up first. Captain Stobo, a man whose neck could be stretched by the French as well, needed Jacob to carry a message to Colonel Washington at Will's Creek. Escape would be difficult at best, but could he possibly evade the watchful eyes of the French? Joshua, a young man who had been taken by the Huron as a child, could possibly help Jacob in his quest, but winter would soon be upon them.
"We must find ourselves a place to stay through the winter," Frederick told Maggie, "or we will all die." One-Ear, a Cayuga warrior, was determined that they wouldn't perish and worked to take care of them in spite of the lazy Frenchman. The journey to the fort at Niagara was a convoluted one filled with danger. Thoughts of Jacob and her children, Mary, James, Becky, and Henry began to overwhelm her, but she "realized it would be better to be a French servant than to be re-captured by the Huron." Maggie had been forcibly separated from her husband, but their hearts remained as one. Would Jacob ever find her in this Godforsaken wilderness? There was a call-to-arms as men began to move toward all of them and the French and Indians began their alliance. Was there any hope, any hope at all?
This is the gripping tale of Maggie and Jacob, whose family and lives were torn apart as the French and British battle for control of the Ohio Valley. S. Thomas Bailey masterfully weaves the history of the era in the pages of this book. Even those unfamiliar with the times will be able to journey with all sides as they converge on the Ohio Valley. We are able to meet the ill-fated Major-General Braddock, George Washington, and even catch a glimpse of Benjamin Franklin. The Huron, whom we get to know a lot about, have a major presence in the tale. For example, we learn that they believed that "the scalp represents the warrior's soul." This is the second in the Gauntlet Runner series, but can stand alone.
Quill says: Shades of Death is historical fiction as its very best as S. Thomas Bailey brings the struggles of Colonial America to life.