A well-written Western takes a multilayered look at the past.

THE UNREDEEMED

Clashes between United States soldiers and Native tribes shape the history of Texas.

In this second volume of a historical fiction trilogy (following Comanche Captive, 2020), Conhaim returns to protagonist Scott Renald, a former “redeemer” who retired after a successful career of returning White settlers captured by Native American tribes to their families. Renald is persuaded to come out of retirement to seek out Karl Hermann, the teenage son of German immigrants who chose to stay with the Apaches when the redeemer rescued his younger brother several years earlier. Renald is recruited by Sgt. Tops Chance, a Black man who knows that the Army will not mount an expedition to search for a young Black girl recently taken captive. Chance hopes that Renald will find her in the course of searching for Hermann, now known as Endah. Renald is unwillingly accompanied by Chivatá, a female Apache warrior, as he discovers that Endah has left his band due to an escalating blood feud with members of another group. Chivatá pursues her own agenda as Renald looks for Endah, and she ends up leading the Black soldiers into a deadly stretch of desert with no access to water. Renald captures Endah, but he allows the boy to make his own decision about his fate. Conhaim is a strong writer, and he brings both the desert setting and the battle scenes to life with economic but evocative phrasing (“A plainsman without Renald’s way with a Winchester would’ve been saying his prayers just about now”). The novel makes a solid attempt to bring the Black experience into a traditional Western, and it largely succeeds. Unfortunately, the Black child captive, who is never involved in the story’s action, feels more like a plot device than a character. While players from Comanche Captive appear in the book, mainly in cameo roles, the sequel stands alone, and new readers will have no trouble following the plot. In an afterword, the author shares details from his research and provides further information about the historical figures who inspired the tale’s characters.

A well-written Western takes a multilayered look at the past.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9843175-3-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Broken Arrow Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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