The lives of Pelulwuy and Kiraban, and those of many aboriginal and colonial players during the first decade of Australian occupation, are enriched by Willmot's understanding of his own aboriginal culture. The irony and humour that Willmot employs, and the fast flow of events across the Sydney basin make this an engaging book. Its portrayal of other historical characters, beginning with Governors Phillip, Hunter and King, and including Watkin Tench, Bennelong and Black Caesar are interesting and insightful. Similarly, Willmot succeeds in portraying the grace, athleticism and martial grace of the Eora warriors which is at least the equal of other warrior cultures from history. The strategic intellect of Pemulwuy earns him a comparison to Hannibal, and his `madness' may also be compared with other historical notables.
I can only praise this book. There are some possible inconsistencies - I wondered for example how an aboriginal girl from the Sydney basin would be aware that non-Australian bees sting or how aboriginals considered the brain to be the seat of consciousness, an outcome of thousands of years of Western and science and philosophical enquiry. But these are small things. Having had the privilege to know many contemporary aboriginals, I am aware of the accuracy of Willmot's descriptions of the innate skill in sport and physical combat possessed by many young (and older) aboriginals. The mythic invulnerability of Pemulwuy may ascend to another level but I often smiled, recalling an acquaintance each time an Eora warrior with a shield and spear bested a Rum corpsman toting a musket and bayonet, or completed a cross country journey more quickly than a horse rider.