It’s 1881, and Brody Martin and his adult Cherokee friend, Joseph, are on the run in Indian Territory.
Joseph’s son, Todd, is hidden away with Brody’s parents after an attack by a “madman” in the previous book of this trilogy, The Devil’s Trap (2011). Brody needs to go warn his best friend, Ames, an adult African-American man, that there are bounty hunters looking for the both of them due to an unfortunate run-in with the nefarious Miller family. Concerned for Brody’s safety, Joseph asks his elderly father, Wolf Jaw, to travel with Brody for protection. Wolf reluctantly agrees even though he doesn’t trust white people or speak English—in fact, he doesn’t show any emotion when Brody tries to communicate with him. Much action involving bounty hunters ensues. Babb takes late-1800s Arkansas and lays on it a tale featuring weak, stereotypical portrayals of African-Americans and Native Americans who play supporting roles for the white male protagonist. Instead of referring to these characters by name, they are often referred to as “the black man” or “the Indian.” Though all of these characters live within the same region, the African-American characters speak in dialect (“I knowed they was a bounty out”) while their fellow Arkansans do not. Wolf dons war paint and whoops for no apparent reason other than adding exotic flavor.
Racial and cultural stereotypes accompanied by an ill-constructed plot do a disservice to young readers unfamiliar with this time period. (Historical fiction. 12-14)