New Zealand’s north island teemed with turbulence in the mid-19th century. With Maori tribes fighting white settlers for their land and white ruffians taking advantage of the unrest to perpetuate their own senseless brutality, small groups of settlers formed militias to effect some peace and justice. Such is the setting of Andrew Earl’s novel, The Blossom and the Musket.
Earl introduces readers to John Tripp, a man whose parents had been murdered and his home burned when he was young. John leads a small militia group with the help of his friend, Tarata, a wise Maori scout. The story follows their exploits and the challenges facing their little group, both from marauders and from the rugged terrain and often hostile climate.
Softening Earl’s very graphic descriptions of battle and other violence is the blossoming love affair between John and Victoria, a woman who has recently arrived from Britain to help her uncle’s family in their new settlement. Thus, John and his small group have even greater incentive to protect the little settlement that has become an oasis of hospitality and stability.
Earl, who lives in New Zealand, has created a fast-paced narrative rich in evocative physical details of both time and place. His memorable characters move comfortably within their environment. Unfortunately, his book suffers from copious punctuation and sentence syntax errors, in addition to the frequent use of incorrect words, such as “reverberated” for “reiterated” or “herd” for “heard.” Such mistakes make reading a challenge.
With a competent editor to untangle the writing’s convolutions (“Tarata’s blood soaked clothing now the same colour red as the sash around his waist had his wide brimmed stained hat tilted”), a lively, fast-paced story could emerge.