A sprawling novel focuses on the burgeoning revolution in 19th-century Texas.
In this final installment of her historical fiction trilogy, Mills (Those Bones at Goliad, 2015, etc.) returns to the world of 1830s Texas. After the American settler losses at the Alamo and Goliad, Yarico Harper, the free black woman who serves as the trilogy’s central protagonist, is fighting for survival and looking to ensure the safety of a dead traveling companion’s 13-year-old daughter, Adeline. Yarico and the white women she journeys with team up with Capt. Juan Seguin and the pro-independence Texan army in a group that also includes James Trezevant, a fellow immigrant from Georgia. The narrative moves in time from one chapter to the next, following the band in its fight for independence from Mexico and exploring Trezevant’s privileged youth and Yarico’s origins in newly independent Haiti. The tale concludes with the post-revolution disposition of the characters. Although readers of the previous volumes will have a more complete understanding of the multifaceted plot, newcomers should have no trouble following the story as both Texas and Yarico find their places in the evolving United States. The characters explore questions of Manifest Destiny and slavery as they contend with war and shifting alliances, keeping the narrative grounded in history while addressing topics relevant to contemporary readers. On the whole, the story is deftly written and well-researched, based firmly in the details of Texas history. The tale steeps readers in the setting without becoming engrossed in historical trivia. But there are numerous minor errors in the characters’ Spanish (“buenos tardes” instead of buenas tardes; “buenos noches” instead of buenas noches; “Téjano” instead of Tejano) as well as in the narrative itself (“plaintiff moans” instead of plaintive moans; “said her peace”). And Mills’ tendency to frequently label her characters (Yarico, for instance, is variously identified as “the dark-skinned woman,” “the woman who’d belonged with the Pagnols,” and “the woman in servant’s garb,” among other descriptions) can become grating. Despite these shortcomings, the book is a substantial piece of thoughtful historical fiction.
This solid final volume of a trilogy follows characters through Texas independence and beyond.