Note: I originally wrote the following reviews for a now-defunct book review site in the U.S. As there is an impending Book Three in the works, I thought it best to combine the two reviews and publish them here at The Miramichi Reader.
Defiance on Indian Creek is a young reader type of historical novel set in the late 18th century in the 13 colonies of New England, specifically West Virginia where Michael Shirley resides with his family in a two-story log home. They also grow tobacco. Mr. Shirley also works as a surveyor for the Crown. It is also a time of great unrest. The Boston Tea Party is still fresh in people’s minds and loyalties are getting divided between the British Crown and the idea of independence and self-government. There are also the native peoples who have not only been pushed out of their territories but are also being forced to take sides. Slavery too is still practised and they are being promised freedom if they take up arms.
This is the world thirteen-year-old Mary Shirley finds herself in. The oldest child, she shoulders much responsibility, and with her awakening sensibilities, begins to question the current state of affairs as well as her father’s involvement in them. Is he a loyalist? A patriot? Secret documents she accidentally finds leads her to believe her father may be a traitor of all things! Now her love and respect for him are torn. She cannot believe he is a traitor, but what about his secret meetings and those papers?
Defiance on Indian Creek is a solid story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The details of frontier life, from cooking, hunting, medicinal preparation, growing crops and such makes the story feel very authentic. The action scenes were quite taut, especially when Mary needs to disguise herself as her brother George in order to deliver an important dispatch as her father is too ill to ride. I certainly would be interested in any sequels as there are storylines in Book One that are just developing, such as Mary’s budding interest in young William McGuire, and the family’s pending move to Kentucky amid all the revolutionary turmoil. While Mary is the storyteller here, there are Michael and George Shirley, which are strong male characters that a young boy could relate to. Recommended for young readers on up.”
Fleeing the Shadows follows fast in the footsteps of 2016’s Defiance on Indian Creek, which was Book One of the Dangerous Loyalties’ historical fiction series from Phyllis A. Still. It continues the adolescent years of Mary Shirley, the oldest child of the Shirley family that have recently left their home and farm in Western Virginia to travel to Kentucky where her father wants to escape the British Army and lay claim to land in the new territory. To get there, they have to travel alone, by horseback and by foot on a dangerous trail where danger lurks in the shadows: Indians, wild animals and those who want to turn Mary’s father over to the British authorities.
As with Defiance on Indian Creek, Ms. Still has penned a fast-moving, historically accurate account of pioneer life, this time on the trail to a new life that is expected to be more peaceful than their life in Virginia where loyalties were becoming torn between British and American, Natives and settlers, Blacks and Whites. There are other issues that young Mary now has to face: the stirrings of fascinations she feels for the young men she meets (not all of them honourable, she soon discovers), the realities of life inside the forts along the trail where women are discriminated against and justice is swiftly carried out for those that violate the law. All of this is discovered through the eyes of Mary, who is maturing quickly as she helps her pregnant mother and younger siblings endure the rigours of the trail.
Wholly enjoyable, and quite intense and shocking at times (the author herself recommends readers be over the age of thirteen) this is a historical series to take note of and one I definitely want to keep following.