A powerful historical novel of exceptional sweep and depth. Paul Denys returned to his family in the rude Quebec of 1671, deeply regretting the courtly life of Paris and Chantilly he has just left. A gifted, restless man of driving spirit he meets as a personal challenge the task of mastering colonial policy and politics and then the heroic assignment of conquering the wilderness he scorns as king's representative on an expedition to the Hudson Bay. Led by the Jesult priest Albanel whose personal courage is expressed through humility and acceptance in contrast to Paul's active resistance to hardship, the expedition to the Bay becomes symbolic of the whole of Paul's life. Strangely, deeply disappointed by the unspectacular culmination of a heartbreakingly difficult adventure only to find in the end the listless ""river and empty sea"" Paul has, however, learned in spite of himself to love the wilderness and to respect deeply his Indian companions. He returns to civilization to find himself ill at case and finally returns to the wilderness, finding in it and a noble Indian wife some measure of peace for his constantly striving spirit. With his wife' death and his own endurance of fearful hardships during a winter of famine and pestilence, Paul at last accepts a position whose selflessness allows him to reconcile the antagonistic elements of his character by becoming Frontenac's confidant and advisor on Indian matters. Paul's struggle and that of all men of that mysterious bent so prosaically called ""pioneering"" is perpetuated in his son whose half-savage, half-civilized percentage marks him indelibly for a repetition of Paul's own role. An excellent combination of popular subject matter and mature perception in facile prose.