by J. Bradford Lawler
Capital City Books, August 2010
Hood has picked the wrong time to return to Iron Gate. The town, plagued by the attacks of a dangerous mountain lion, is on edge. Worse yet, a mysterious stranger confronts a gang of outlaws – including Emmett Stone, the man who murdered Hood’s father four years ago.
The year is 1888, and rejected by those who call him only “Half-Breed,” Hood must figure out where his allegiances lie. What does it mean to be both white and Cherokee? How can he balance the urge to avenge his father’s death with the wisdom passed down from his grandfather, Chief Namar?
Hood was driven out of town four years ago, but this time, he’s resolved to stay, and, if necessary, fight to reclaim his family’s homestead. The deck is stacked against him, but he finds an unlikely friend in Ruben Fudd, a fellow woodsman and tough rodeo competitor. Hood and Fudd should fear for their lives, but they are determined to stop at nothing until justice is served and the safety of Iron Gate is restored.
This book is aimed at a young readership, teenagers probably. The heroes of the title being of this age too. Both of them are extremely well created characters, as are the other main players in this tale. The stranger, who insists on being called only T.R., adds intrigue to the story, and his true identity came as a welcome surprise.
J. Bradford Lawler writes well, with a smooth flowing style that is easy to read. His chapters are, mainly, short and each one is headed by a beautifully sketched pen-and-ink illustration drawn by the authors’ sister, Kelly. The book doesn’t really contain any bad language – just the once that I noticed. There are morals, mostly disguised as Cherokee wisdom, which didn’t come over as heavy-handed, as is often the case, but as a natural element of the storyline. Lawler also has fun with some of the spoken lines, borrowing from Norman Greenbaum’s song “Spirit of the Sky” in one case, which had me grinning. As did one of the train drivers’ names: Casey Jones.
The story builds well with all the different plot threads coming together for the final shootout as outlaw cowboys and the Sheriffs posse clash in an exciting gunfight. The mountain lion also has a part to play, and Lawler uses misdirection superbly in that the big cat doesn’t attack whom you’d expect.
At the end of the book J. Bradford Lawler does leave one thread dangling, which indicates that he’s got a second book planned, a book I’ll be keeping an eye-out for.
At the time of posting this review you can buy the book at a discounted price directly from the publishers here.