by Don Coldsmith
Bantam, December 1991
Wise old medicine man, White Fox, and his impressionable son, Red Horse, have agreed to guide Captain LeFever of Fort de Chastaigne to Santa Fe, in his quest to establish trade relations between the French and the Spanish. But their destination proves to be an elusive one; Baptiste DuBois, the vicious leader of a band of voyageurs, joins the expedition and cruelly assaults a Mandan woman, trapping LeFever and the People of the plains in the middle of an unwanted blood feud. For young Red Horse, the voyage downriver becomes a journey to manhood as he confronts treachery, passion, and greed that inflame the heart and imperil the survival of his people.
Don Coldsmith, once more, writes a fascinating book about his fictional band of the People and their struggles to come to terms with the ways of other people, here the French. Most of this is seen through the eyes of Red Horse, particularly after he’s witness to murder. Red Horse, too, must try to understand the complexities of women, which lead to some heart rendering discoveries.
One of my favourite parts of this book was when the People first lay eyes on a black man. Why would somebody paint his whole body they wonder?
Like many of the Spanish Bit books this is mainly a tale of discovery, both of people and land. Coldsmith’s writing style has you sharing that wonder, the fear and the horror of sudden violence.
To say more would give away too much of the plot, and again I will say that if you have an interest in the Indian way of life – or are just looking for a good read – then this book is worth hunting out.