The Walkingstick and Wolf clans return in this second installment of Cowen’s (The Walking Stick: Chewahnih, 2016) mid-19th-century Cherokee family saga, this time featuring Chewahnih’s mother, Willow of the Wind; and her new husband, Snow Eagle.
The Civil War is hovering, and illegal slave traders have been committing atrocities within Oklahoma’s Cherokee Territory. Specifically, raiders have been stealing Native American women and trading them for black slaves transported from the Caribbean. Snow Eagle’s troublesome daughter, Golden Meadow, is taken by slave traders, and their Deer Clan (part of the Wolf Clan) embarks on a rescue mission, which expands to save other slaves. This adventurous plotline is supplemented by rarely taught historical details regarding slavery. But the bulk of the story revolves around the main characters’ family problems; for example, Meadow and Tahnie, Willow’s son, are resentful of their parents’ marriage—until Willow leads Meadow’s rescue and the stepsiblings fall in love. The bad guys are simply portrayed as evil incarnate, but most of the other characters are well-drawn and engaging, and they include a couple of unusual figures: Six Toes, a domesticated but sometimes-fierce bobcat that Willow raised; and Angel, a fluffy, white wolf pup, given to Chewahnih as a wedding present by the wolf that protected her in the previous novel. Chewahnih’s and Willow’s abilities to communicate with animals add an enjoyable and occasionally humorous mystical element to Cowen’s skillful narrative, which mixes sometimes-violent history, Cherokee traditionalism, and the normal conflicts of extended families. However, it would have benefited from a stronger copy edit. An overuse of commas, for example, adds confusion rather than clarity, and dropped words (“ ‘We did. We will be going back to clear them out,’ Tahnie his throat and continued”) cause unnecessary distractions.
An informative and often engaging portrayal of Oklahoma Cherokee life in a previous century.