Age Range: 12 - 14
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In a setting on the New York frontier in the Finger Lakes region during the 1790s, orphans Deliverance (Livy) Pelton and her younger cousin Ephraim (Eph) become burdens on the town and are sold to a seemingly uncouth and ignorant frontiersman, Gideon Gunn, at a Pauper’s Auction. What follows details the lives of the Seneca Indians, especially the young Seneca, Rising Hawk, the Gunn family, Livy, Eph, and a host of other, sometimes confusing, figures who are germane to the story but who are not sharply enough defined for immediate reader identification. Thus, it becomes a matter of, “Now, which one was that?” Livy is sent away to teach spinning and weaving to Gunn’s Seneca family further west on the frontier. Rising Hawk, whom we learn is Gunn’s brother, serves as her guide on the long trek, making it inevitable that the clashes between the two will eventually lead to romance. A reader will gather details of life among the Seneca, their history and that of other people of the long house, and some of the cultural battles between the alien settlers, i.e., Europeans who have won the Revolutionary War, and foreshadowing of war battles to come. But readers will not know if such battles do take place and, if so, who will be victorious. Although copious and interesting notes, “A Glossary of People, Places, and Concepts,” is provided, some of the information might have been easier to digest if woven into the text. Fewer characters, fewer cliff-hanging incidents, fewer stereotypes, some portraying disgustingly nasty, filthy, savage, brutal folk—Europeans all—would have strengthened the action-packed historical fiction. But some questions need responses: once, most negative stereotypes were of Native Americans; now it has gone the other way and the characters whom readers love to hate are the conquerors, those of European ancestry. Is such characterization fair or needed and will readers be aware of the dangers of such a misuse of both fiction and history? (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-531-30310-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Orchard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000