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A World Away

To the Edge of the World

Secota, The Americas, 1586



Flames light the length of my mother’s body and lick around her slender neck. Above her, leaves shrivel and branches blacken. Pale men, their armour glinting, swing their fire torches against the early sunrise.

What have they done?

Behind her, flames leap from the roof of our house. On the steps, painted pots shatter in the heat. I run towards her, calling for my cousin. My mother has not made a sound until she hears my voice. Then she screams at me to stay away.

I stand still, breathing in the scent of her burning flesh, crying out until a pale man, his cruel eyes taunting between beard and helmet, drags me away. He pulls me down to the creek and throws me into a boat full of pale men. Some pull the oars. Others level their muskets towards the bank, where my cousin Seekanauk stands and calls my name.

Seekanauk dives. The man sitting next to me fires his musket, sending out sparks of fire and hurting my ears and I dare not look at the water. I fix my eyes on my village, Secota, half-hidden in the smoke, until we round the headland, where the fishing boats rock in our wash. I cannot take in what I have seen, what my father has not seen because he is away hunting.

Who are these men? Where are they taking me?

Salt from the spray stiffens my skin as I watch the smoke curl into the dawn. My father will come for me. When he returns from the hunt, he will ask our chief, Manchese, to let him fetch his canoe and find us.

Wingina, chief of all the village chiefs, welcomed the pale men when they came across the great salt water, and permitted them to build a fort on one of our islands. When they came to Secota, they came in peace with gifts of gaudy glass and a metal cooking pot. One of their men marvelled so much at our corn and copper that he painted pictures of us. He laughed when he told me his name. Not all pale people are called White he said. His work was to show my land to his people across the sea.

I learned to speak his tongue so well that I helped to interpret for the other pale people. It suited me, because I do not like women’s work: softening the deerskin to stitch into skirts, pounding the corn into flour.

But my father changed. His bright eyes darkened. He cursed the pale men because they brought a spotted sickness that killed Seekanauk’s father and sister. Keep away from them, Nadie, he said. They want to take our women to breathe life back into themselves. They are bloodless. Their hair hangs from their faces. They foul the water that we drink. What creature would do that?



We skirt my land all day. The rattle of the oars startles the seabirds. The men curse as they slap mud. One of them offers me a green fruit, and I take it for its juice because my throat is dry. At last, I see Roanoke Island on my right, the last island inhabited by the Secotan people before the great salt water that stretches to the horizon.

On the mainland, opposite Roanoke Island, is the village of Desamonquepeuc. This is where Wingina lives. I respect him, not just because he is the great chief of all the village chiefs, but because he is intelligent. He does not believe that the pale men have come back from the dead. They eat and drink too much for that,he laughs.   

My heart lifts as we come to shore. He will punish the pale people for what they have done today.

There are more pale men waiting for us, wild-eyed and shooting fire into the air as I am pushed from the boat. I think this is their greeting, for two men in silver helmets come from the trees, carrying Wingina. How peaceful he looks as he stares at the sky. Turkey feathers decorate his hair, turkey claws hang from his ears. Clay splashes his forehead and face like dried blood. Copper and pearls coil around his neck and down the lion skin wrapped around his body.

I kneel. The men halt in front of me, laughing as they tip him from their shoulders, laughing as Wingina’s head rolls onto the sand, his ragged neck soon gritted with fine shells. The seabirds shriek back at me. I beg the gods in the Upper World to receive him; I ask my mother to care for him.

Then the sky and the sea tilt, green and grey, into a darkness so deep that even the shadows disappear.

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Plymouth 1586.

I am afraid.

These pale-skinned men have killed my mother and betrayed my people. Now they have brought me to a place they call England where they want to display me in front of their 'Virgin Queen'.

My name is Nadie, but some call me 'savage'. I find it hard to endure their taunts, stares and insults. I do not want to live in this grey, inhospitable land.

And yet there is one boy, Tom, whose blacksmith's dark skin matches my own. When he looks at me the fire of love burns in my heart. I feel I could find happiness with Tom - but can his love for me survive in my world, with my people? A vivid historical tale inspired by The Lost Colony - 100 English men, women and children who travelled to the New World in 1587 and who were never heard of again. A violent and passionate test of endurance, survival and love, masterfully captured by the poetic hand of Pauline Francis, this is a must-read for all fans of Raven Queen. Internet links to recommended websites about the life and times of the characters.

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Book information

Lexile Measure
Accelerated Reader level
4.9 MY

Author information

Pauline Francis

With 20 years of experience as a Secondary school teacher and trained librarian, Pauline has a passion for teaching and encouraging creative writing. Pauline had her first book published in 1994, and has had several books published since, including a number of retellings of well-known classics.

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Shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards 2009

A World Away, like Pauline Francis' previous book, Raven Queen, has been shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award.

Press reviews

“Tudor England saw the brutal colonisation of the American Indians by Sir Walter Raleigh. Heedless of the rich and subtle cultures he found during his travels, Raleigh sought only to impress the Queen and ensure his own lasting fame and favour, plundering at will to gain Royal approval. When Nadie, a North American Indian, is torn from her home and taken as an exhibit to Plymouth, we see this harsh and xenophobic culture through her eyes. Her only true champion is Tom, the young apprentice blacksmith, stricken by the loss of his father which gnaws at him and enables him to understand her fear of change and alienation from what is around her. The two fall in love and when Nadie is returned to her land - again, purely as a political expedient - Tom goes too, with no knowledge of what to expect and only the strength of his love to sustain him. They are accompanied by other hopeful colonists, misled about the dangers facing them in the New World in order to make the colonisation process a success. Francis vividly describes both the exotic environment and the violence subsumed within it. She makes clear the damaging impact of colonisation and the failure to understand the customs and rituals of the indigenous peoples. This is contrasted with the strength of the love - sometimes misplaced - which sustains the 'pale men' who come to colonise - the love of God, the love of country, the love of power and the true love between individuals. This is an affecting and often shocking novel which makes clear the implications of seeking to occupy lands without thought for those who live there and explores fearlessly the concept that Man is both predator and prey.”
“The main conflict and theme of 'A World Away' is cultural dislocation. Nadie, a Native American, is brought by force to Plymouth, where she stays with (mostly) sympathetic townspeople. She is haunted by memories of the colonists burning her village, and seeing her own mother engulfed in flames. Traumatised, she survives the perilous journey to England. Fortunately, because in Virginia she had acted as a translator between her tribe and the colonists, she speaks good English. In a relatively short period of time she adopts the dress and behaviours of her captors, and attracts the eye of good-hearted Tom the blacksmith. When it is decided that Nadie is to accompany colonists back to Virginia to facilitate communication with, and protection from, the Native Americans, Tom is forced to make the agonising choice of whether to leave the world he knows and cross the ocean with her. 'A World Away' is based on the true story of the 'Lost Colony' of 1587, in which an entire settlement mysteriously vanished - either absorbed into local tribes, or else killed by them, or by the Spanish. It is known that before they disappeared, they suffered from lack of supplies, a harsh winter, internal dissent, and from previous poor relations with local tribes. All of these events are used to good effect in the book. Francis neither shies from, nor is overly graphic in describing, sexual or violent incidents. The strength of the story lies in the parallel experiences of Nadie and Tom's culture shock, how one copes with leaving home and family for the unknown, how one relates to the person for whom they have emigrated, and - in Nadie's case - how one copes with returning home a changed person."”
“A vivid historical tale for the 11s-plus, inspired by the author learning of The Lost Colony - 100 English men, women and children who travelled to the New World in 1587 and who were never heard of again.”
“A bold and beguiling tale of love and separation, set against the tragedy of the first settlers in the New World. It tells the story of both Tom, a young blacksmith in Plymouth and of Nadie, a child slave brought to England as an exhibit for Sir Walter Raleigh in 1586. Completely engrossing and lyrically written with characters so cleverly portrayed you cannot fail to be incredibly moved by their heart-wrenching story where death is commonplace. This haunting tale, with great attention to historical fact brings history beautifully to life and will live in your thoughts long after you've finished it.”
“Set in the turbulent late-sixteenth century, this book uses the blossoming relationship between Tom, an English blacksmith, and Nadie, an abducted North-American Indian girl, as it’s central plot, around which the political upheaval of the era roles. Set in Plymouth, England and the New World, their tale is told in alternating first-person chapters with interesting details of life at the time. A thoughtful, though sometimes shocking and violent novel, further elucidation of the social and political environment would further enhance the plot.”
“The story of Nadie, shipped back as a trophy from the new colony of Virginia, is a powerful one, albeit spiced with artistic licence ...Pauline's use of language is poetic and visceral, and the harshness of the times is never glossed over.”
“Beautifully and elegantly written, this story confirms Pauline Francis as a fine historical novelist.”
“This novel certainly makes the 16th century of Tudor England come to life with a rich array of characters and the deeper themes of love, faith, loyalty and betrayal make for a compelling read.”
“I found this book an amazing and interesting read and I couldn't put it down. My initial doubts about reading a historical novel were soon overturned. The love story between Nadie and Tom came to life and you got a good feeling of the two different cultures and time period. I would suggest this book for older teenagers who love a tragic love story.”
“This is the second exquisitely written book from this author, the first being Raven Queen, the story of Lady Jane Grey. A World Away is set again in the 16th century but this time recounts the story of the first attempts to colonise America, in 1587, when around 100 men, women and children went to live in the New World but disappeared without a trace.”
“Set in the 1580s in England and Virginia, this is the love story of Nadie, a Native American girl from Secota, near Roanoke, and Tom, a young Plymouth blacksmith. It is told in short, alternating first person chapters, which create a gripping narrative. Told in vivid, poetic style, this story springs from the page in colours as bright as a Virginia fall. Images of fire recur throughout: the smithy, the fires of purgatory, the fires of love, of destruction, of a forest fire. The narrative unfolds in a series of dramatic scenes, with no unnecessary detail. This is a beautifully written book that brings to life the clash of cultures in the New World.”
“A wonderful love story - suitable for all. Definitely one of the best books of all time, based on many true facts, it deals with delicate issues wonderfully. Francis fascinates me, she has produced a magnificent book. Not many people have a talent such as this.”
“A beguiling tale of love and separation, 'A World Away' is set against the tragedy of the first settlers in the New World. Ripped from her Native American family and shipped to England as an exhibit for Sir Walter Raleigh, Nadie is thrust into a brutish Tudor life. Her only protector is Tom, a young blacksmith who makes Nadie's heart burn with love. And when Nadie is forced back to her homeland, to help the English colonise her people, Tom stays by her side. But will their love conquer the clash of cultures and untold dangers that the New World holds for them? Written in the first person, with alternating chapters form Nadie's then Tom's point of view, this is a hypnotic tale that will appeal to those aged 13 and over.”