Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Spanish Bit Saga #18

By Don Coldsmith
Bantam, January 1993

Originally published by Doubleday, May 1991

Strong Bow was famous for his proficiency with all the weapons in the People’s arsenal. His long muscles could propel an arrow with deadly accuracy into a buffalo, a tree stump, or a lizard’s eye. But the young brave was eager to prove his skill on his people’s enemies and to capture the highest glory – death in battle. In the summer of 1720, the Spanish would give him his chance against the French and their relentless Pawnee allies. But as Strong Bow will soon discover, the price of pursuing the warrior’s way can be even greater than death….

Like many of the books in this excellent series this tale is about the discoveries of new lands and the people that inhabit them, but this time Don Coldsmith adds the fear of mistrust. This latter is mainly brought about by the language barrier as few of the different tribes, and the Spanish, are able to talk to each other and even less are able to speak with sign language. Body language and actions are misinterpreted and this, mixed with arrogance, gives the whole story a sense of tension that makes for gripping reading.

Strong Bow makes for an engaging hero and you’ll soon be wondering how he’ll come out of this in one piece, particularly after the Pawnees capture him. (The cover painting by Tom Hall superbly illustrating a scene from this part of the book)

How Strong Bow is saved from instant death is beautifully thought out but this doesn’t mean he is free, the shadow of death still hangs over him. Coldsmith creates a wonderful group of characters that each want to deal with Strong Bow in their own ways, each held to a stalemate by the others. Strong Bow is eager to escape and gets his chance…. but I won’t reveal more as this will certainly spoil the book for anyone intending to read it.

Don Coldsmith ends the story with a question that I can only hope is answered in the next book. In fact this question had me reaching for the next novel immediately….

Return of the Spanish is another story that shows why this series is held in such high regard by so many.


Jo Walpole said...

I hope you don't mind, Steve, but I found this complete list of the series and thought it might be of interest to people who like your review and haven't read any yet (like me). Since it's a cut and paste job, please don't blame for any errors :-)

1. Trail of the Spanish Bit (1980)
2. The Elk-Dog Heritage (1982)
3. Follow the Wind (1983)
4. Buffalo Medicine (1981)
5. Man of the Shadows (1983)
6. Daughter of the Eagle (1984)
7. Moon of Thunder (1985)
8. The Sacred Hills (1985)
9. Pale Star (1986)
10. River of Swans (1986)
11. Return to the River (1987)
12. The Medicine Knife (1988)
13. The Flower in the Mountains (1988)
14. Trail from Taos (1989)
15. Song of the Rock (1989)
The Changing Wind (1990)
16. Fort De Chastaigne (1990)
17. Quest for the White Bull (1990)
18. Return of the Spanish (1991)
19. The Bride of the Morning Star (1991)
20. Walks in the Sun (1992)
21. Thunderstick (1993)
22. Track of the Bear (1994)
23. Child of the Dead (1995)
24. Bearer of the Pipe (1995)
25. Medicine Hat (1998)
26. The Lost Band (2000)
27. Raven Mocker (2001)
28. The Pipestone Quest (2004)
29. Moon of Madness (2008)

Steve M said...

Hi Jo, I don't mind but I will add a couple of additions to it.

Between #17 and #18 should be the second Super Edition: The Traveler. (The first SE is The Changing Wind that is in your list). The third SE is World of Silence and this came out between books 19 and 20.

All the regular books follow a time-line and many of the books contain a family tree. The three Super Editions came about due to requests by readers asking for more about certain characters and Coldsmith wrote these as stand-alone novels and I've decided to read these after I've finished the series.

You've also got book 29 listed. Sadly Moon of Madness was never published as there was an arguement between Coldsmith and publisher about some of the content. Coldsmith died before this was resolved and the book failed to appear.