Two young men with an undiscovered yet important connection share narrative duties in Philip Roy’s latest historical novel for young readers. Jacques is a dreamy 15-year-old forced by his soldier father to leave France to pursue a military career in the New World. Two-feathers, a Mi’kmaw teen, has also travelled to the fortress of Louisbourg, in search of the father he’s never known. The boys’ lives slowly become entwined as the story unfolds, and their different perspectives offer a fascinating look at life in an 18th-century Acadian fort.
Jacques does not understand why men love war. He would much rather read and play the violoncello, and is therefore a disappointment to his harshly masculine father. Finding little in common with his fellow soldiers, Jacques quickly develops a friendship with Celestine, a merchant’s daughter who shares his gentler interests. When a poorly planned raid on an English fort results in the French being humiliated, his disdain for military life is reinforced.
Two-feathers, orphaned when his mother disappeared following his French father’s abandonment, meets Celestine during his surreptitious visits to the fort. His observations about the French are interspersed with vivid descriptions of the Mi’kmaw way of life as he hunts, builds shelters, and communes with spirits.
The boys’ parallel paths finally come together during the British siege of Louisbourg in 1745, when they are each forced to face their feelings for Celestine, and make choices about their futures and whether or not they will be defined by their parentage.
Though entertaining, the book falters in its character development: Jacques’ pacifism is hardly representative of an 18th-century Frenchman, and Two-feathers is almost too perfect, with no evident flaws. That being said, if the battle scenes, love-triangle, and intriguing storyline serve to pique readers’ interest in early Canadian history, then Roy has surely accomplished no easy feat.