The Weight of Smoke (Vol. 1 of In the Land of Whispers)
Clothbound, sewn, jacketed, 392 pags, 6 x 9". 2006, 978-0-929701-80-6
ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year Finalist for Historical Fiction
Four hundred years after the founding of Jamestown, the lives of Captain John Smith, Powhatan, and Pocahantas assume their true dimensions in a far-ranging saga of the beginnings of the British Empire, and in particular how the English came to the New World to create a Utopia, and instead founded a slave state. . . .
Presented as the final work of the famous explorer and author, Captain John Smith, The Weight of Smoke recounts the disastrous first eighteen months of the Jamestown Colony, 1607-1609; but entwined with the colony's fractious beginnings are the adventures of Sir Francis Drake, retold around the campfires by an old alchemist, Jonas Profit, who sailed the Spanish main with Queen Elizabeth's pirate. Drake is the abiding spirit as Smith is initiated into greatness. In Jamestown, Smith finds himself at the center of a desperate struggle for survival, a struggle that will involve him in the mysteries of this unknown land. Appropriately, these tales are told in a language rich with metaphorical power and flavored with Elizabethan authenticity.
". . . The author is a marvelous wordsmith, occasionally using poetry in his prose: "The next day the world was eyes and trumpet calls. A sky of banners and ladies graced the city's walls." His story-within-a-story, the adventures of Francis Drake several years prior to the establishment of Jamestown and Smith's adventures, is handled cleverly. Minkoff demonstrates the difference in class structure.... It's amazing that the colony ever succeeded. The importance of Drake's story helped me understand Captain Smith's drive to explore the coast of North America, as he tried to locate the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. The author also introduces Pocahontas and Powhatan and explains the effect of the English settlement on the local Native American tribes - who try to maintain their culture as they war amongst each other - as well as the "magic" of tobacco, the weight of smoke. The novel is not a quick read, but one to be savored. — The Historical Novels Review (Jeff Westerhoff)
For Volume 2, The Dragons of the Sea, click here.
For Volume 3, The Leaves of Fate, click here.
To read a sample from The Weight of Smoke, click on the link below.
Sample Text and Other Links
"THE WEIGHT OF SMOKE is like nothing you'll read except for the great works of another era -- works by Shakespeare or Cervantes or Wu Ch'eng-en, for instance. I don't mean to put this book in their class -- only time can do that -- but Minkoff has created a mental and spiritual world quite unlike ours that exists all on its own, solid and palpable. Not surprisingly, especially since it is the Elizabethan world (who ever remembers that Capt. John Smith was an Elizabethan?), it is dense, allusive, and complex -- anyone with a short attention span should flee in terror. Its soaring and vivid descriptions of virgin American countryside on the one hand and the world of water that Sir Francis Drake ruled left me gasping and somewhat suspicious that I was in the presence of the reincarnated. In an era in which American prose writers have largely sacrificed depth of expression on a darkly glittering altar of surface, George Minkoff is to be applauded for keeping both alive."—Walter Bode
"Had John Smith actually written this 'secret diary' of his life, readers might well have enshrined it on their bookshelves with the works of Shakespeare, Gibbon and other noted British authors. George Minkoff's writing in The Weight of Smoke is that good.... Its almost 400 pages move fast and colorfully describe what life must have been like during those tough first years. Many of the colonists certainly weren't the best suited to begin a great new country, but thanks to Smith and the others, they did it. This reader, for one, looks forward to the second and third volumes of the trilogy when they are published...." -- Robert Shultis, The Virginia Gazette
"Does a book have to be over a hundred years old before it is a classic? That's what I kept thinking as I was reading George Minkoff's monumental The Weight of Smoke, the first volume in a trilogy named In the Land of Whispers. It is much like Moby Dick, laden with meaning. But...The Weight of Smoke is not only very well written, it is also far richer in its observations of human nature and the meaning of history, all within a fascinating story of an era that is rich in discovery and adventure." -- Berkshire Home Style
"Written by antiquarian expert George Robert Minkoff, The Weight of Smoke is the first of a three-volume historical fiction epic, In the Land of Whispers, set four hundred years ago on the shores of what would one day become the state of Virginia. Young Captain John Smith carried dedication and drive at the colony of Jamestown, yet one disaster after another beset the colonists: intrigue, avarice, corruption, disease, starvation, and violent war with the indigenous peoples. A prophecy is spoken concerning Captain John Smith: that his acts in this untamed world will be remembered not in terms of immortal glory, but rather in degrees of desperation. And deep inside, he carries a yearning desire for Powhattan's favorite daughter, Pocahontas. The Weight of Smoke reads with the flourish of an odyssey, and the dark reality of grim history. Enthusiastically recommended." — Midwest Book Review
"A vivid retelling of crucial events, enlivened with aphorisms and, best of all, a new incarnation of a legendary romance." — William T. Vollmann
"A truly unforgettable experience. The language is yet again a new instrument--vital and pliable. Minkoff has given us back so much of what we have erased in order to survive by forgetting." — Jorie Graham
It's the richest prose I've read in a long time. . . Every page is decked with brilliant lines -- an astonishing wealth of unexpected metaphors. Yet the narratives are not impeded. You just have to slow down to take in such awesome prose. The Weight of Smoke is a tour de force, a fabulous tissue of words, that will be hard to ignore. I should think fiction readers, or readers of historical fiction will be smitten by this new entry to the field." — Jill Johnston
"This is not a dry historical novel. Minkoff has a gift for writing that pulls the reader into the story. . . . I highly recommend this novel...especially to those interested in the early founding of America." — Reader Views
A new review of the audiobook: https://booktrib.com/2019/09/heavy-is-the-weight-of-smoke-a-historical-drama-now-on-audiobook/
Watch the Book Trailer on vimeo: In the Land of Whispers
Watch the Book Trailer on YouTube: In the Land of Whispers