A young Englishman travels to the newly settled Virginia that’s billed as a paradise only to find a realm dominated by greed, hunger, and violence in this novel.
Matthew James violates the terms of his apprenticeship—he’s training to become a carpenter—when he assaults his abusive master; as a result, he likely faces prison. His friend Richard Scott—a bookish, dreamily idealistic scholar— plans to head for Jamestown, a “new promised land” that he believes is a utopian alternative to the “vile and sinful land” that is England. Matthew is skeptical but joins Richard anyway, if for no other reason than his lack of options. When they arrive, they quickly discover Richard’s optimism was hyperbolic—the environment is an unforgiving one; supplies are perilously scarce; and the settlers have a gravely hostile relationship with the Natives, the Powhatan. But, as the pair’s leader, Capt. John Smith, explains, the British are driven by an insatiable lust for gold they believe is there to be mined but likely does not really exist. Richard is undeterred, and decides to learn the Natives’ language in order to bring the Powhatan Christian civilization. He marries Anne Breton, but she and Matthew develop romantic feelings for each other that threaten to grow into a betrayal of Richard. In this engaging novel, Meier depicts, with rigorous historical authenticity and rich period details, the difficulties and dangers of Jamestown in the early 17th century, especially acute when the settlers face starvation. In addition, he astutely probes the English conceit that the British are the noble bearers of civilization while the Native Americans are unrefined savages. As one soldier succinctly puts it: “These people fight with us for the same reasons that we would fight with them if they were to invade our country. We call them savages, but what is more savage than English law that would disembowel a man and then pull his body apart while he yet lives?”
A thoughtful and historically exacting tale of a treacherous New World.
THE FEATHERED QUILL
Accomplished author, Daniel V. Meier, Jr, has released another gripping novel in the historical fiction genre, entitled Bloodroot.
The story begins in England in the early part of the 17th century. British citizens are being bedazzled by elaborate tales of a promised utopia, over in the New World, filled with vast amounts of land and gold. The land in this utopia is just waiting to be taken by anyone willing to sail across the ocean and assist in the beginnings of a settlement in Jamestown, Virginia.
Bloodroot follows two of these pioneers, Matthew, a carpenter’s apprentice, and his friend, Richard, each with their own personal reasons for leaving their homeland, decide to brave the rough waters and join in the establishment of a new town, all in hopes of obtaining prosperity beyond their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, the organizations running the ships between England and Jamestown fail to inform their potential passengers of a few important facts: necessary supplies are short and in high demand, the weather is vastly unlike anything anyone has experienced in England, and most critically significant is that Indian tribes are outraged by the British intruders, and are quite willing to fight to protect their land.
The two friends do their best to establish themselves in this wild new land with Matthew having an easier time than his friend. This is because he’s quickly chosen by the leaders to assist in important duties such as the construction of housing, while Richard, because of his good nature and overall naivety, struggles to fit in. Over time, though, he quickly falls in love, marries and begins to build a life with his new bride Anne. However, life in this
fledgling colony proves to be anything but a paradise filled with riches. The colonist’s daily strife quickly worsens and descends into bloody chaos when their captain is accidentally injured and must return to England, leaving the colonists feuding over not only power, but the desire to discover the elusive gold in nearby lands. Further devastation arises when Indians manage to get into their unguarded lands, killing people and destroying their food supplies, throwing them into a desperate starvation mode. Matters couldn’t possibly be worse for anyone, including the two friends, who are now also dealing with their own devastating issue. An issue that will destroy their friendship and cause Matthew to become fraught with guilt, depression, and desperation.
Meier’s Bloodroot is a raw, emotional, and vividly depicted novel set during a time that, while it may be quite foreign to us in the 21st century, is so well-written and researched, that you feel as if you're actually living in 17th century Jamestown. The author has not only written a historically accurate novel, but has also expertly woven a page-turning fictional tale that easily rivals others in the historical fiction category. Laced throughout this intense tale are complex, believable characters, and a plot that captures your attention from the beginning, and leaves you thinking about many scenes well after you’ve finished reading. Finally, it should be briefly noted that the author provides a glossary of terms in the back of the book (that might otherwise go unnoticed until the end) that may enhance your reading journey.
Quill says: Reading Bloodroot is an intense look into the lives of early Jamestown settlers, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Meier (The Dung Beetles of Liberia) transports readers back to Jamestown, 1609, in this dramatic historical fiction. Matthew, an English carpenter on the run after assaulting his boss, embarks on the long voyage to Virginia with the hopes of a new beginning with his best friend Richard, an optimistic scholar. Matthew adapts to the harsh environment of the Americas, learning to use a gun and contribute to the settlement, winning favor in the eyes of colony leaders like Captain John Smith. Richard, though, struggles to see Jamestown for anything other than an Eden where he can start a new civilization and spread Christianity to the local Native Americans.
The men’s friendship illustrates opposing viewpoints of early settlers’ adjustment to Jamestown. While Matthew hardens to the reality that the settlement is not a promised land brimming with gold, Richard struggles to learn survival skills, falls in love with an Englishwoman, and insists on his mission to “begin the world over again, the way it should be” by spreading “the light of Christianity.” Both men's morals are tested as they face the harsh reality for the unprepared English settlers, striving to find food in a punishing winter. Meier doesn’t sugarcoat the settlers’ attacks against the Native Americans or the retaliations: the brutality of Jamestown life, and the battles between the Native Americans and the English, are deftly laid out with clarity and power, inviting readers to experience them alongside Matthew.
History and fiction blend perfectly in this vivid account of early settlement in an unforgiving new land where morals are tested and sins are committed. Those who grew up learning the stories of Jamestown in history classes will recognize many characters, such as Captain Ratcliffe, Powhatan Chief Opechancanough, Captain Davis, and Sir Percy. Meier provides a detailed map so readers can easily follow along with the characters’ movements.
Takeaway: his well-researched novel of early Jamestown will grab readers seeking a fresh look at history.
Great for fans of: Connie Lapallo, Tony Williams’s The Jamestown Experiment.
book review by Kate Robinson
"I had the uneasy feeling that Captain Smith’s implications were true and between our Atlantic and Captain Drake’s western ocean lay a vast and wild land that could easily swallow us up without a trace."
Meier brings to vivid life the horrendous struggle for survival in the ill-fated British settlement of Jamestown in seventeenth-century Virginia. The historical tale focuses upon a love triangle between two friends, Richard and Matthew, and Anne, the woman beloved by both, in an affair commencing in the heady months of construction before the devastating winter of 1609-10. As with many other immigrants, Matthew and Anne would prefer not to have chosen the uncertainties and deprivations of life in the New World, but their circumstances as an apprentice on the lam (Matthew) and an indentured servant to a wealthy couple (Anne) make their emigration not only desirable but expedient.
Their betrayal of dutiful, idealistic Richard gives Matthew an acute sense of guilt, adding weight to the waking nightmare of dealing with other settlers more intent upon striking it rich than in building a community, the ever-shifting political loyalties between the civilian settlers and the fort's military commanders, and avoiding or surviving hostile interaction with indigenous tribes. Matthew's intimate first-person narrative continues into the early 1620s as he becomes increasingly despondent about his perceived spiritual treachery and the whirlwind of gains and losses in colonial life. He seeks death but encounters an unexpected new life with the Powhatan tribe instead.
Meier effectively juggles historical detail and sense of place, story arc, characterizations, and artistic imagination to create an atmospheric, theatrical study of humanity's best and worst traits and the unwieldy juxtaposition between them. Readers who dare to tread the troubled waters of this tale will find a thoughtful, passionate portrayal of many types of people and the devastating personal costs of creating and maintaining civilized lives while lacking advanced technology in a natural world that is further burdened by an era with high odds of spiritual and cultural collision.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
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By turns heartbreaking and fascinating… A raw, powerful story.
Meier returns with a stunning story about a man caught in the grip of treachery, passion, and the unescapable flow of history. England 1609. After a minor scuffle with his master, the young Matthew, an apprentice carpenter, finds himself running away from the law, joining his best friend Richard on an excursion to early British settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. But what begins as a journey to a promising land soon turns into a nightmare of impossible proportions, with hunger and savagery testing the limits of humanity. With his lust for Richard’s wife, Anne, Matthew soon embarks on a path of sin and treachery. But guilt soon takes over, and living becomes a burden. Meier’s eye for detail is immaculate, whether it is the evocation of the rugged, unforgivable landscape of Virginia or the portrayal of the grizzly horrors of a desperate and dying community. He ably interweaves scenes of settlers’ everyday life along with the fantastical world of the native American culture and their legends and beliefs into the affecting narrative. The characters are universally human in their emotion, be it the honest, morally upright Richard or troubled Anne. Matthew is a triumph; he has loose morals and integrity is not something he values much, but Meier depicts him with humanity and compassion, making him thoroughly humane. The narrative moves at a swift pace, building to shocking revelations as fate intertwines and Matthew eventually finds meaning in life. Meier’s skillful manipulation of interlocking plot strands, keen insight, and entertaining storytelling make it a page-turner.
Bloodroot is set in 1609 and follows the journey of Matthew, a young man who runs away from his oppressive job as a carpenter's apprentice in England to pursue a new life in the British settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. His friend Richard, who joins him on this adventure, has portrayed that blossoming colony as a paradise of opportunity. Matthew never quite believed this flowery picture of perfection, but he also never imagined that conditions in that colony would challenge him more than his difficult life in England.
From threatening Indians and starvation to elusive promises that turn out to be equally distant and imaginary, Matthew has jumped from the frying pan into the fire, and comes to feel that the only escape from his battered life is death.
Help comes from a completely unexpected angle and changes not only his downward trajectory, but the wellspring of relationships in the New World in this vivid historical piece, highly recommended for mature high school students and historical novel-reading adults alike.
Many historical fiction pieces about these times have been written before; but Daniel V. Meier, Jr. holds a special ability to bring the times to life through his use of the first person to capture these dilemmas through Matthew's eyes, adding an extensively researched background that rests solidly on real historical facts.
The wilderness encounters are particularly well described as Matthew and his fellow colonists struggle to navigate an alien environment with few resources, providing astute contrasts between England and wild America: "The Lieutenant himself went in search for whatever fruits the land would provide. He soon returned with his hat and shirt full of berries which looked similar to English strawberries but with a sweeter, juicer taste. We heard a musket report not too far off and, in less than half an hour, the marksmen returned, bearing a large male deer strung on a carrying pole."
Even romance is depicted in all its complexities as Matthew struggles with his heart and aspirations: “I thought of it many times, but Richard told me that he wanted to take you for his wife. You know his hopes for the future. His reasons for wanting to marry you are far nobler than mine. You know why he is here. He is a man of learning and vision. I knew that if God would favor anyone, it would be Richard. I came here only to escape the law, and if it becomes safe for me to return to England, that is what I will probably do.”
Meier's attention to detail and description power the story line and provide realistic, engrossing scenarios that bring these early times to life.
These elements, combined with an adventure that keeps changing as Matthew adjusts to his environments and hones his real vision of a different future, make Bloodroot an engrossing read. It succeeds in imparting much historical information about early America in a way that makes the story personal, memorable, and hard to put down. The descriptions of settler and Indian encounters and clashes are particularly notable: revealing and engrossing.
Historical fiction collections and readers interested in a well-done account of early colonial life will find Bloodroot a superior tale that stands out from competing genre reads.
Reviewed By Lucinda E Clarke for Readers’ Favorite
Daniel V Meier’s BLOODROOT is set at the beginning of the 17th century and tells the tale of the early days of the settlement by the British in Jamestown, Virginia. Men volunteered to sail to the new world for a variety of reasons. Matthew had attacked his employer and wished to avoid prison. Rumors flying around at the time spoke of an earthly paradise, where vast swathes of land were to be had and gold lay hidden in the hills just waiting to be mined. Some adventurers traveled to gain riches and then return home. Others planned to remain in a new and exciting world. The reality of the situation was quite different. While the London Company who funded the supply ships painted a glowing picture, they neglected to mention the Indian tribes who fought to protect their own land, the extreme temperatures, and the absence of any modern facilities. When Matthew arrives, along with his good friend Richard, they have different goals and the times and conditions will cause a deep and terrible divide between them.I thoroughly enjoyed yet another book by Daniel V Meier. In Bloodroot, he returns to a familiar theme - the goodness and the brutality of man. Set in the early days of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, when Matthew and his friend Richard arrive after a dangerous sea journey they have very different goals. Richard’s unfailing belief in the goodness of man does not serve him well in the new rough colony which is run by fear and force. His character is well-drawn and while realizing he is naïve in his beliefs, the reader is drawn to him. Matthew’s approach is more alert to the brutality of the adventurers, but at heart, he is a kind, fair and just character. The conditions of the settlement are so clearly drawn, and take you back four hundred years to suffer, cheer and weep with the folk in Jamestown. The deprivations during the long, hard winter will make you shiver. The author’s descriptions of the ways people fought to stay alive will haunt me for days. The tenacity to cling to life is brilliantly depicted in this story of greed, pride and superiority so unwisely let loose. In retrospect, it’s a miracle anyone survived and thrived. Highly recommended. Five stars without a doubt.