In the second part of her dazzling Australian epic, Tamara McKinley takes readers on a roller coaster ride through the heights of love and the depths of depravity... The savage splendours of 18th century Australia come alive in McKinley's wonderfully atmospheric novel featuring three families caught up in the heat and turmoil of a country struggling to reconcile the past with the present.
    In her tale of passion, conflict, friendship and rebellion, we meet the people who helped to forge a new nation and who learned, through trial and terrible error, to treat this huge and sometimes hostile country with the respect that its ancient tribes and landscape deserve.
    McKinley's sequel to Lands Beyond the Sea is not just the story of man's conflicting capacity for both inhumanity and deep compassion, but also a vivid portrayal of his relationship with the natural world - its wildlife, its potential to sustain and take life, and the vagaries of its climate.
    Through the bloodthirsty and merciless Edward Cadwallader, a man not long exiled for the crime of rape, we are presented with a frank and disturbing picture of some of the early colonialists who mercilessly massacred the aboriginal tribes in a frenzy of blood lust.
    His German-born wife Eloise hoped for a new life and new beginnings in Australia but her father's connections with 'trade' and her foreign ancestry have made her an outsider in the rigid class system of the British outpost.
    She quickly learns that her husband is a violent drunkard and gambler, and falls into a dangerous and clandestine love affair with the charming and kind George Collinson, unaware that the two men have a secret and linked past.
    Meanwhile, young Alice Hobden is arriving from England to meet her long lost love Jack Quince, an emancipated convict who is now making a living from the land with partner Billy Penhalligan and his feisty wife Nell.
    Like many migrants, Alice is imbued with a sense of growing excitement about the new opportunities that await her in this vast and savage country. Appalled at the poverty and degradation she witnesses in the stinking alleyways of Sydney Town, she is also spellbound by its raw beauty.
    For young Niall Logan, Australia is a heady mix of disenchantment and rebellion. Transported to New South Wales when he was only eight with hundreds of other Irish children, he must wait, watch and plan with his fellow convicts for the chance to fight for freedom.
    And hidden in the bush is a boy called Mandawuy, the last surviving full-blood of the Eora tribe, whose coming of age brings the ultimate choice - to join the white man or help his fellow warriors in the fight to save their spiritual home from the invaders.
    But this mixed bag of characters - their hopes, their loves, their bitter disappointments - are only a part of this rich and beguiling story. The real star is the country itself - a vast melting pot of heat, flies, wildlife and simmering human emotions where man must either perish or survive.
    It is therefore fitting that - with a guiding hand from the native aborigines' spirit world - the climax becomes almost literally a battle between man and nature...
    Beautifully written, well-paced and full of unexpected twists and turns, McKinley's moving story provides a lesson from history that we cannot ignore.

Pam Norfolk