Wednesday, 19 January 2022


Book 27 of 29 + three Super editions
By Don Coldsmith
Cover art by Tom Hall
Bantam Books, July 2002

Demon…or Healer?

For years Snakewater, the aging medicine woman of Old Town, has been respected – and feared – by her Cherokee village. Now, as a series of mysterious deaths plagues her village, she finds herself accused of being a Raven Mocker, the legendary creature of evil that steals life from its victims in its relentless quest for immortality. Driven from her people, Snakewater journeys west for the first time with a traveling band to the Cherokee settlements far beyond the Mississippi.

Her trail will be one of perilous discovery. Accepted by a culture new to her, admired and loved by its children, she finds herself feeling more vibrant and youthful. But is her newfound vigor a gift from the spirits…or a sign that her people were right, that she is a life-stealing Raven Mocker? As the annual Sun Dance approaches, Snakewater will learn the fateful truth about herself and the unexplained deaths – a surprising revelation that will confirm her new life…or destroy it.

In this book Don Coldsmith moves away from telling a story about his fictional tribe and spins an intriguing and captivating tale of an old Cherokee woman set circa 1800, who is accused of being a mythical Raven Mocker. Coldsmith explains that this evil spirit steals the life breath of the dying and adds their unlived years to its own life. Coldsmith never mentions the missing hearts that legend says this creature harvests without leaving a mark on the body.

Seeing Snakewater struggle with the horror of whether she could be a Raven Mocker without knowing is the main storyline. Coldsmith also includes other spiritual elements, as he does in many of the book in the Spanish Bit series, and one of the unseen Little People has a major role to play in this story too.

Once Snakewater decides to leave her Cherokee home, the story becomes much more familiar to fans of this series. It turns into a tale of discovery, of meeting new peoples and learning their ways. Unknown to Snakewater there are people on her trail seeking revenge for the deaths of their loved ones. Eventually Snakewater meets up with the Elk-Dog People, Coldsmith’s tribe that has been followed throughout all the previous books, and it is with them that she will finally face her demons, real or imagined. 

As usual Don Coldsmith captures emotions superbly, be they joy, wonder, fear or hate. His dialogue is believable and descriptions of time and place are beautifully told. Even if you are sceptical about the supernatural elements of this tale, Coldsmith will make you a believer, such is the power of his prose. 

In Raven Mocker, Don Coldsmith again proves that he was up there with the very best writers of fiction and, for me and many others, his work is unmissable.

I feel I must mention the artwork fronting this book. Tom Hall’s covers to the entire series are wonderful but his painting on Raven Mocker must rank as one of his very best. The careful thought-out placement of items within the image lit by the fire to cast the giant shadow of a raven is terrific and captures the mood of this story superbly.

Note: Wolfpack Publishing have recently begun republishing the complete series.

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