The King’s Beast – Eliot Pattison
A remarkably immersive and compelling story, crafted with Eliot Pattison’s atmospheric style of vividly portraying historical fiction. Pattison provides fascinating historical detail which he weaves seamlessly into his storytelling to create an outstanding novel. A focal point of his novels is his ability to bring to life the wonderful landscape his stories inhabit.
The New World in the American colonies was beginning to explore its resources with an increasing realisation that new ideas and exciting possibilities lay ahead. The barriers to its own sense of worth were the controls from the English colonial power, and how taxes, materials and benefits flowed in one direction only.
In 1769, as many covert activities around scientific knowhow, business trade and military forces from Britain and the American colonies started gathering momentum, the bones of an ancient beast are discovered in a salt lick in Kentucky, on the Ohio River. As the bones of the Incognitum are unearthed under the behest from the Sons of Liberty and the watchful eyes of tribesmen, lethal forces from England want to prevent them being used as another example of American wealth and opportunity. The destination of the bones is London and to Benjamin Franklin, as he seeks to curry favour with King George III. There are forces around the king that want to prevent that happening, including those closest to him.
Duncan McCallum is the main character in the novel, a Scottish highlander, a scholar, a soldier and a brother to the tribes. One of his close friends, Ezra, on the assignment with him is murdered and a letter is found shoved into his mouth that has been signed by Benjamin Franklin and contains the word ‘Covenant’. Duncan is sure the killers are ahead of them in a race up the river to Pittsburgh. With his companion, Ishmael, an Iroquois warrior, they now have an ordeal ahead of them to complete their mission for the Sons of Liberty and track the killers of their friend. The Shawnee chief Catchoka said to Duncan
“ ‘The gods will follow the bones. No one can stop them now. They have great power. Lives will change.’ Duncan sensed no anger in his voice now, but rather something like pity. ‘They are old earth. You are new earth. You will suffer the consequences. You will die again and again.’ ”
The King’s Beast is a beautifully written novel that captures the period with its political machinations and wonderfully diverse range of new and renowned characters. History marks Benjamin Franklin as an American founding father, a man of science, an inventor of electricity, and an important figure in the relationships between England and the American colonies. Pattison gives voice to the many Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee, Mohawk, Oneida and Iroquois, which is a wonderful element of the book. The prophetic visions and the ancestral attachments from the tribesmen offer mystical favour and a deep connection with nature.
Eliot Pattison is a master of developing a sense of time and place and having read a few of his books now, I feel he operates in a league with very few others. Nothing is ever wasted as each scene and conversation is expertly woven into an exciting plot with mystery and suspense. There are so many intricate layers of plotting where deceit, misdirection and conspiracy keep this story enthralling from beginning to end.
An easy decision to rate this book 5 stars and I highly recommend reading it. I would like to thank Eliot Pattison for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review.