Friday, 24 July 2015

Extract: Island of the Red Mangroves by Sarah Lark

Today it's the final leg on the Island of the Red Mangroves blog tour with an extract for you, then later today we'll have Emma's review of the second book in Sarah Lark's Carribean Island series but I can give you a hint... she LOVED it ;)

Jamaica, 1753: Deirdre, daughter of Englishwoman, Nora Fortnam and slave Akwasi, lives a sheltered life on her family's plantation. Her stepfather, Doug, has welcomed her into his life as his own. Despite Deirdre's scandalous origin, the men of the island flock to the young beauty, but she shows no interest. That is, until she is charmed by young doctor Victor Dufresne, who asks for her hand in marriage. 

After their lavish wedding ceremony, Victor and Deirdre embark to Saint-Domingue on the island of Hispaniola, where Deirdre can live without the burden of her mixed background. But what happens there changes everything ... 

In the weeks before Christmas, there was a frenzy of activity in the rebel camp. The women worked around the clock making poison packets. They went into the forest in groups to find the necessary flowers, lichens, and mushrooms, then carefully dried them and crushed them into a powder all in accordance with Macandal's instructions. Macandal oversaw their work and sat with his captains to develop individual plans of attack. On December 25, his army was to strike. While the planters died on their plantations, Macandal's soldiers would attack the gendarmeries in the cities and the military barracks. The plan was to overtake offices, military bases, and prisons and, in turn, to control the entire community of Saint-Domingue. Naturally, that had to be organized with military precision. Jefe, one of the few who could read and write, wrote and sketched until his fingers were sore.

One evening, Macandal spoke to the slaves who had come from the plantations – some over a great distance – to receive the poison packets. They were taking considerable risks, and many of Macandal's captains had spoken out against inviting them at all. It would have been much less dangerous to distribute the packets through messengers or the still ubiquitous pacotilleurs. Many areas of the island could actually only be reached through them, as it took several days by foot between the plantations at Port-au-Prince and the Spirit's camp. But Macandal wanted to personally reach as many of his followers as possible; he wanted to fuel his cause.

"If just one is caught, he can give away the whole plan," Jefe pointed out. "And you too, Macandal … It is dangerous if you go along to Nouveau Brissac. Why don't you stay here, let us do it, and you can arrive when the land is in our hands?"

It was agreed that the poison packages would be distributed to the area around Cap-Fran├žais from the shed between Nouveau Brissac and Roche aux Brumes. It was where Jefe had heard Macandal speak for the first time, and Macandal was determined to speak there again to the heads of the movement on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. After that, he wanted to sneak onto the Dufresnes' plantation and celebrate with the blacks while the house slaves administered the poison to the visitors of the Christmas ball. Jefe, like so many of the other captains, considered this an unnecessary risk.

But Macandal just laughed. "They won't get me, boy! I am immortal; don't forget it! I have to be there to give the people courage. They have to know that I am there, that I will protect them, that my light shines upon them! We will not hide anymore! We will sacrifice to our gods while they celebratethe birth of their Savior Jesus Christ. We will dance and sing and …"

Macandal's speech to the selected slaves was to take place during the Christmas masses on the plantations. For practical reasons, the latter was held in the afternoon so that afterwards, the ball could take place and the slaves could either serve or celebrate. During Christmas, field slaves had it better than the house servants. For them, the feasting began on Christmas Eve, while the house slaves still had to wait on the whites. The absence of a few blacks at mass would not be noticed, so representatives from all of the surrounding plantations could come to the shed between Nouveau Brissac and Roche aux Brumes. And it seemed that Macandal was also planning a ceremony. He spoke of sacrifices, dancing, and summoning spirits.

"Which of us is to go with you?" Jefe asked in resignation.

Island of the Red Mangroves by Sarah Lark is published 23rd July by Bastei Entertainment, price £3.99 in eBook.

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