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Cane Warriors

Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is working on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . .

Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760. The story begins with Moa being awoken in the middle of the night by one of the rebels who informs him that the revolt will begin on Easter Sunday. Moa’s father doesn’t like the idea of Moa joining the rebellion but his mother gives Moa her blessing.  Moa’s best friend is Keverton who is two years older than him.  They are the main protaganists of the drama and through them we see brotherhood, courage, faith and sacrifice.  We see them launch attacks on slave masters and free slaves from neighbouring plantations.

It’s an untold story that pays homage to freedom fighters all over the world.

Shortlisted for The German Youth Literature Prize - Cane Warriors 2024

Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards 2022

Shortlisted for CILIP Carnegie Medal 2022

Shortlisted for the IRIS Award 2022

Winner of The Young Quills Awards 2021

Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Caribbean Reader’s Award of Best Young Adult Novel 2020 

Shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards 2021

Longlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2021

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Andersen Press/Random House UK
Akashic Books USA

Au Diable Vauvert France

Antja Kunstmann Verlag Germany

Penguin Audio


'Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion with the full knowledge and understanding that change can only happen through words and actions’ Steve McQueen (director 12 Years a Slave)

'...superb foray into historical fiction...this intense, affecting story of courage, bloodshed and commitment to freedom at all costs' The Guardian - Children's books roundup

'It’s passionate, important and Wheatle’s best novel yet.' The Times, Children's Book of the Week

'Giving voice to characters seldom heard in British children’s books, this is an important, powerful novel about hope, freedom and brotherhood.' The Observer - Young adult books round up review

'I read it in one sitting. I simply could not put it down. Cane Warriors is such a powerful narrative of trauma and triumph.'  Carolyn Cooper, PhD - The Gleaner

‘This is a vital part of British and Jamaican history bought vividly to life. Alex Wheatle has reclaimed our ancestors and given them have the voice they were denied’  Catherine Johnson

‘I've just finished reading the manuscript copy of Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle - and was absolutely blown away. It is as sublime work of art; imaginative and brutally honest. Though it is a work of fiction, Cane Warriors is rooted in reality, the horrors of colonialism and the subjugation of a people, which provides an educational experience for the reader with the turning of each crisp page. The characters' quest for freedom can easily be likened to the global Black experience of 2020 albeit in a different context. Reading the book, I truly marvelled at how far Black people have come and also lamented over how little has changed. In the UK, the Brexit referendum result and ongoing Windrush scandal has raised questions around Black identity and the value of our lives within the confines of an oppressive system. For me, Cane Warriors serves as an inspiring, but also sobering, reminder that the fight for survival spans across centuries and is very much ongoing. And it is not about the survival of a lone individual but, rather, the collective struggle, what that entails and what it means.’  Nadine White  NewsReporter|HuffPost UK

‘The importance of this book cannot be overstated. Alex Wheatle takes the truth, and creates fiction to illuminate that truth. He too is a warrior. A word warrior. I saw my ancestors in this book, and now I know that Alex and I really are brothers.’ Benjamin Zephaniah

‘Alex Wheatle is a master storyteller. He writes with urgency, passion and the empathy we all need to wrestle with the realities of transatlantic slavery, bringing marginalised narratives straight out of the shadows, right into the frame. Every kid in the country needs to read this book.’ Jeffrey Boakye

‘Terrific. A pacy, provocative ode to an important part of Jamaican history from one of our most versatile, trailblazing authors.’ Irenosen Okojie

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