Late in his career, Harry Whittington wrote several historical novels under the pseudonym Blaine Stevens. ISLAND OF KINGS is the final book to appear under that name, and in fact, it may be the last book that Whittington wrote. I believe it was the final new Whittington novel to be published, but if I’m wrong about any of that, I hope someone will speak up in the comments.
At any rate, whether or not it possesses the historical significance of being the last Whittington novel, ISLAND OF KINGS is worth reading. It’s set in Hawaii in the 1770s and is a fictionalization of the young prince Kamehameha’s efforts to avenge his brother’s murder, unite all the Hawaiian islands, and establish himself as the king. Kamehameha’s rise of power is complicated by the arrival of the British explorer Captain James Cook and the two ships under his command. This is the first time the islanders have ever encountered anyone from the outside world.
The other protagonist in this novel is a roguish young British officer on one of the ships who falls in love with an island girl, deserts the ships, and goes native, eventually winding up involved in Kamehameha’s plan to unite the islands.
As usual in a Whittington novel, the story is fast-paced, colorful, and filled with sex and violence. Not all the characters turn out the way you’d expect, either, and such surprises are always nice. Never having studied Kamehameha or Captain Cook, I don’t know how historically accurate the book is, but it’s definitely a good yarn, which is all I was looking for.
The only real flaw in ISLAND OF KINGS is the head-scratcher of an ending, which reads like Whittington ran out of time, energy, or both. Despite that, it’s an entertaining, fast-moving novel, and worth reading despite being a definite notch or two below Whittington’s great suspense novels and Westerns. (I couldn't find a better cover scan on-line, so that's the actual beat up, cover-clipped copy I read.)
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