Drifting down from Tomassee Knob the mist would spread over the Keowee Valley in a great, rivering pool of gray, the sun rising in the east flecking the horses’ breath-suspended in the air before their nostrils-with slivers of shine. It was then the whole world was quiet, no crows eating my corn, the peacefulness not even broken by the bay of some wolf on the ridge, calling to the still-lit moon in the western sky. The whole world was silent then, and the Blue Ridge breathed beneath the deep purple earth. I thought I could feel it, a great heart beating in the wilderness.
Keowee Valley is a historical fiction novel set in pre-Revolutionary war America in the South. Quincy MacFadden, orphaned on her way to America as a child when her parents fell ill and died on the ship, was raised by her grandfather in Charleston along with her cousin Owen. Despite her grandfather’s efforts to raise her to be a society lady and marry well, Quinn is more feisty than finesse and more direct than docile.
News about Owen, who had been working as a land speculator for the Transylvania Company on the frontier of the Appalachia Mountains, comes to their doorstep, revealing clues that he is believed to have been kidnapped by the Shawnee Indians rather than killed when they lost contact with him a year and a half ago. A new hope of finding her cousin alive spurs Quinn into action and sees an opportunity to live a life she’s always dreamed of. By heading to the frontier to free her cousin, she can also be set free from her conventional life in Charleston for one laced with adventure as far as her eye can see.
Quinn, unmarried, bookish and cursed with visions of the future, has always been determined to blaze her own path in the world and begins her adventure by bartering for land from a well-known Cherokee chief. She finds the help of a half-Cherokee , Jack Wolf, whose life is steeped in the land she now calls home. As he tracks Owen’s trail alone, much to her chagrin, Quinn begins building a home for herself along with other families she has asked to help her settle the land in the beautiful and untouched Keowee Valley. Together they traverse the challenges of frontier life, creating a family she comes to love as her own. However, that is all threatened by her consistent and disturbing visions along with updates from her grandfather of political unrest among the colonists. She knows in her heart that the land she loves as well as its native people are on the brink of change that will last forever.
This is Katherine Scott Crawford’s first novel and I am so, so impressed. Her heroine is strong with a wit as sharp as a knife. She is precise in her setting descriptions, giving such vividness to the story’s backdrop, it was as if I had been standing in Keowee Valley myself. Ms. Crawford intertwines the various layers of her novel with ease and took me on an adventure that kept me flipping pages well into the night. This novel has an adventurous plot, a beautifully depicted setting, delightful wit and humor, endearing characters, heartfelt passion, a rich Native American history, and an ending that surely indicates a sequel. Katherine Scott Crawford has great talent as a novelist and I look forward to reading many more of her stories. If you are a fan of Sara Donati’s Into The Wilderness, then you will love this novel. I highly recommend!
Keowee Valley, 348 pages was published by Bell Bridge Books in Sept. 2012. I received my copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.