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Metacomet's War: A Novel of King Philip's War - David Kerr Chivers Metacomet’s War is a novelization of war in 1675-1676 New England. A war closely connected to Metacomet, otherwise known as King Philip, leader (sachem) of the Wampanoag, a tribe, or tribal nation of the somewhat loosely connected Algonquin (the Wampanoag itself is broken down into smaller sub-tribes with their own sachem’s/chiefs/leaders). Metacomet lead the Wampanoag, and as much of the Algonquin as he could persuade to follow him in his war against the English settlers. His chief mission was to drive the English into the sea, out of America.

Metacomet’s father, Massasoit, helped the English survive the harsh winters when they arrived in 1620. Massasoit lead the Wampanoag until 1661, living, co-existing with the English settlers in peace. Certain issues, though, started to spring up. Noted-ably the issue of the English settlement expanding and taking more and more of the surrounding land, including Wampanoag land. The land was both sold in exchange for peace and alliance and taken from them in trumped up court case(s) (as told to the reader while Metacomet is describing the situation).

Massasoit’s son, known by the name Alexander by the English, and Wamsutta to the Algonquin, succeeded him in leadership of the Wampanoag in 1661. He lead the Wampanoag for a year before succumbing to illness while in Plymouth. Metacomet took over leadership of the Wampanoag in 1662 and continued the alliance with the English until the outbreak of war in 1675. While keeping the alliance, he began a long build up for the war that would eventually occur. Talking with various native tribes, trying to persuade them of the need for the war, for a war with the English. To drive the English to the sea.

The book begins in June 1675 with the trial and execution of Tobias, Wampapaquan, and Mattashinnamy. They had been charged with the murder of John Sassamon. The evidence at the trial revealed that Sassamon had warned of a coming war lead by Metacoment/King Philip, and that Tobias with the help of Wampapaquan and Mattashinnamy killed Sassamon.

The young warriors were hot for blood, for revenge. The old sachems of the Wampanoag were not ready for war. Metacomet had been building up for war since 1662, going among the tribes of the Algonquin to build up support. The young men of the tribes wished for that war to start now. Metacomet had a decision to make. He had to decide if the time had finally come to go to war. Metacomet stalled the decision for the moment to build up more support among the various Algonquin tribes, specifically with the strong Narragansett. The war, without the initial support, or opposition (as in without the Narragansett joining with the English) of the Narragansett was started with attacks on the towns and villages of New England. With the aim of complete destruction, and not just raiding.

Well, that is where the book begins. With a trial, and then war. I will not continue with describing what happens, as that is what the book sets out to do.

As the book progressed, I was drawn into the war, into the story. The book proceeds without a main central character, leaping from action to action, with the thoughts and feelings of certain characters at the forefront, like Metacomet. All of Metacomet’s sections, at least the ones where he is thinking, narrating, the star of the section, is in italics. That makes it easy to find his sections in the book, but is also quickly irritating. Italics are not the easiest style to read over many sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. That is one specific draw-back, flaw, in my own reading of the book. It might not be a problem for others. And, truthfully, at times I stopped noticing that I was reading italicized words. For short passages at least.

Other than the italics being used, and certain editorial issues (missing quotation marks in certain spots, running together of paragraphs in another, and the transformation of one character’s name from Jonas to Jason in the middle of a battle), the book was a well-written interesting read. There was certain stiffness to the early dialogue between Metacomet and others, though that might have still been the italics issue getting to me.

As more added history: The English Civil War (1642-1651), had ended just 24-25 years before Metacomet’s war. A crowned king had returned to the English throne only in 1660. The second year of Metacomet’s war, 1676, also saw Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion in Virginia. I had to examine Bacon’s rebellion in depth in college, so I was thinking about that issue, the rebellion occurring in Virginia at the same time as Metacomet’s war was occurring while reading the book.
Both wars ended . . . um . . . I can’t really say, can I? The history is known, but still there is a hesitation to not discuss the specific story-line, plot-points of the book, especially the ending part. Both wars had more success than might have been expected, and to a certain extent, both wars whimpered to their conclusions. Bacon’s rebellion basically extinguished itself with the death of Bacon from illness. The rebellion continued for a short time after Bacon’s death, but his replacement was more of a follower than a leader. Similarly, Metacomet’s war was dealt a blow when an important person was killed near the end. Here, though, it was a blow to the spirits of the warriors that broke up the temporarily combined tribes, instead of a removal of the chief war-leader.

Would I recommend the book? Yes. Quite interesting, well-written book. The reader, though, must be interested in early north American colonial history, and have a certain level of pre-knowledge of the time (more helpful than required).