LORD OF THE PLAINS by Alfred Silver


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A sweeping Canadian western drawn from the annals of Saskatchewan history. Author Silver follows up his Red River Story (1988--not reviewed) with this tale of rebellion in the last days of the independent frontier, circa 1885. Gabriel Dumont is the principal figure here, a legend in his own time who led his fellow mixed-blood inhabitants of the Great Northwest Plains into action when they--along with the Indians of the area--were threatened with the loss of homes and land by the national government in Ottawa. Faced with the prospect of their being removed from their settlements, Gabriel gathers them together against the corrupt authority and joins forces with Louis Riel--another legendary Canadian--whose eloquence and faith in his visions give a spiritual fervor to the resistance, making it a holy and just cause, even though opposed by the Catholic Church. The band of rebels stops the military force sent out to tame them, despite being overwhelmed by superior numbers and equipment, but the resistance is short-lived. Riel gives himself up and is hanged; Gabriel and his wife, Madeleine, escape to Montana, where she dies a short time later. Painting these individuals and the landscape in the same broad strokes, Silver sometimes sacrifices realism: Gabriel and Madeleine are larger than life, archetypes instead of flesh-and-blood characters, and the story teeters precipitously at times on the brink of melodramatic excess--though finally it's redeemed by an abiding and earthy humor, and by the author's obvious sympathy for his material. A big, blustery, and satisfying, if somewhat flawed, piece of historical fiction, and a rare look at the Wild West, Canadian-style.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Ballantine