Monday 11 April 2016

Child of the Dead

By Don Coldsmith
Bantam, September 1995
First published by Doubleday, February 1995

It is the time of the annual Sun Dance, but this year the celebration is marred by sadness. On the trail south, the holy man Singing Wolf makes a terrible discovery: an entire village destroyed by the dreaded poch, the spotted death. There is only one survivor, a young girl called Gray Mouse. For the good of the tribe, Singing Wolf knows they must leave the girl behind. Yet the aged and grieving Running Deer will stay behind to care for Gray Mouse. Seeking to join her departed husband and daughter, Running Deer will instead discover a new reason to live as she nurses Gray Mouse to health. Together the old woman and the young girl will begin an extraordinary quest to re-join the People, bearing a powerful vision of courage, hope, and survival.

There is much to admire in Don Coldsmith’s writing of this book. His observations of heart-break, despair, the uselessness of old-age, the humour in not giving a damn how the younger generation see the antics of the elderly, the human spirit to survive, and the power of hope, to name but a few of the feelings that Coldsmith brings to life in such a way you’ll find yourself sharing these emotions with his beautifully crafted characters.

Singing Wolf must also wrestle with the question of how to fight a killer you cannot see, that can strike at any moment without warning.

Don Coldsmith splits this story into three parts. The first dealing with the horror of smallpox; the second the battle to survive the disease and that of Running Deer and Gray Mouses’ trek to find the survivors; and the third part that sees a jump forward of ten years, bringing new heartache for Gray Mouse as she struggles to find out who she is. This takes her on a dangerous trail of self-discovery that could lead to her death at the hands of a tribe first met in an earlier novel in the series; Bride of the Morning Star.

In conclusion this is another excellent entry in this first class series.


Oscar Case said...

Too bad that Mister Coldsmith passed away. He wrote great stories about the Indians.

Jo Walpole said...

Good to see you back at the keys. Thanks, Steve. :)

Neil A. Waring said...

I very much enjoyed reading this series. I have read many of his books, one of my favorites.