Young readers might not learn until the Afterword what adults will guess early on--that Rain Dove, Mink, and Trotting Wolf are 16th-century Cherokees and that the plague that destroys their village is actually smallpox brought by Spanish explorers. Despite a setting that is never explicitly defined, and despite the way in which Rain Dove's narrative flows from four mystical omens and ends with their disastrous fulfillment, Rockwood's pre-literate Cherokees are neither distant nor mysterious. Rain Dove's motives--for becoming the second wife of Mink, an influential conjurer, and, later, impulsively leaving him for Trotting Wolf, a warrior her own age--would befit a heroine of any time; yet--except for one scene in which Mink intuits the disease's communicable nature--the cultural fabric is tightly woven. The very fact that Rain Dove's people are seen laughing and making playful jokes as well as fearing death and respecting the power of magic, gives them an edge in accessibility. An agreeable successor to Long Man's Song (1975).