Review: Cane by Stevie Woods

As this book has been reissued by Phaze and is now available in print and ebook – we are reprinting the review showcasing the new cover.

From the blurb: Sint Marteen 1855. Privileged young Pieter may have grown up on a sugar cane plantation, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the way his father runs things. He falls in love with Joss, one of his father’s slaves, and their affair sets off a chain of events that is destined to tear them apart. When Pieter’s father dies, he returns home hoping to find Joss. It’s too late for their love, but maybe it’s not too late for Pieter to find happiness. As he makes his way to America, Pieter realizes old conflicts still rage, and even as he finds a new love, danger stalks his every move. Can Pieter learn to overcome the hate and fear that threaten to tear his world apart?

Review by Erastes

It’s an intriguing premise and Woods has obviously done a ton of research about Sint Maarten, sugarcane and the Dutch trade, and that shows. There’s rather a little too much history at the beginning of the book – which follows on from the very opening scene, a sex-scene between Pieter and Joss and pulls you away from a erotic beginning into HISTORY! Then the time-line jumps back and forth and is a little disruptive, and in fact (as far as I can see, from just one reading) goes wrong at one point, and Pieter goes from being nearly 21 to 25 years old in only 2 years.

Pieter’s complete ignorance of his surroundings, and the workings of the plantation, relationships of the slaves struck me as rather implausible. He’s about 12 before he starts asking questions, and .. well… that just didn’t ring very true. He doesn’t seem to have a tutor, and I’d imagine that his father would have had him learning the business (as an only son) pretty early on. He has, however to become an abolitionist so I suppose this might have been necessary. What struck me, too, is that the voices were all so similar. You had a Dutch-Caribbean young man who’d never been off the island, a young negro slave, an American plantation owner from Louisiana and so on, but they all spoke identically. I’m not saying that I want phonetic representations of accents, but I’d like to have seen some differentiation here and there.

I did like the way that the author showed the reasons why some plantation owners could not follow the abolitionist route, but I did find it ironic that, for all Pieter’s talk and attempts to convince Sebastian of his views, he still owned slaves in St Marteen, even if they did run the plantation themselves.

The conflict takes a while to kick in, and everything is bit laboured for the first half of the book – particularly the episode back in Holland where nothing much happens except to introduce Cane himself – but when it does it relies heavily on not only one major coincidence but two, which was a bit much to swallow. The reintroduction of previous characters could have been done a little more elegantly.

The thing is, that I did enjoy this book – I appreciated the work that the author had put into it, and I liked the set up at the end which screams sequel. If there is one, I’ll definitely be buying it, but there were too many reasons that stopped this from being a book which, with a few tweaks, was one that would have easily earned five stars.

Buy from Phaze

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