Because the copyright has expired, Project Gutenberg has posted the text of The Princess Pocahontas online. Read some of it--perhaps the first few pages--and I think you'll see what I mean.
Here's a representative passage--from Chapter VIII, when Smith first meets Powhatan:
"We have waited many days and nights to behold thee, wayfarer from across the sea."
Smith, looking up at him, saw a finely built man of about sixty years, with grizzled hair and an air of command. He smiled to himself at the strangeness of his fancy's play, but the air of this savage chieftain, this inborn dignity of one conscious of his power, he had seen in but one other person—Good Queen Bess!
"I too have listened to many voices which have told of thy might, great chief," he answered, speaking the unfamiliar words slowly and distinctly.
Then in the pause that followed the Queen of Appamatuck came forward and held out to Smith a bowl of water for him to wash his hands in. Pocahontas leaned eagerly forward to see whether the water would not wash off some paint from his hands, leaving them the color of her own, for might it not be, she had questioned Claw-of-the-Eagle, that these strangers were only painted white? But even after Smith had wiped his fingers upon the turkey feathers the Queen handed to him, they remained the same tint as his face.
At the command of Nautauquas, the slaves began to bring in food for the feast which preceded any discussion of moment. An enemy, be he the bitterest of an individual or of the tribe, must never be denied hospitality. Baskets and gourds there were filled with sturgeon, turkey, venison, maize bread, berries and roots of various kinds, and earthern cups of pawcohiccora milk made from walnuts. Powhatan had motioned Smith to be seated on a mat beside the fire, and taking the first piece of venison, the werowance threw it into the flames as the customary sacrifice to Okee. Then he was served again, and after him each dish was offered to the prisoner.
The Indians are all intelligent, articulate, and multifaceted. Pocahontas is believable as a bright, curious, and willful 13-year-old. She and the 27-year-old John Smith think fleetingly about the possibility of romance, but quickly dismiss it.
The book romanticizes Pocahontas as a "princess" even though she wasn't one. It dwells a bit too much on the tribe's warfare, torture, and "superstitious" beliefs. It glosses over Pocahontas's transition from pagan captive to dutiful Christian wife.
Watson occasionally uses stereotypical terms to describe the Indians. Since she wrote the book in 1916, it may be a legitimate case of her thinking what everyone thought because she didn't know any better. Some examples:
Despite its flaws, this 1916 book does a better job of rendering an Indian culture than some books written almost a century later. Although it's fiction, it doesn't invent a romance between Pocahontas and Smith. Descendants of the Powhatan Indians may notice some historical inaccuracies, but none jumped out at me.
Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.
For more on Pocahontas, see Pocahontas Bastardizes Real People.
Below: A romantic illustration from the original book. (Since I listened to the book on CD, I don't hold these illustrations against it.)