Captain John C. FrÇmont's 1845 topographical expedition to California and the US war with Mexico serve as the backdrops for an engaging tale of a young America's westering imperatives. Soon after joining the force gathering along the Arkansas River for FrÇmont's third trek west of the 100th meridian, Bradford Stone, a young Harvard grad with mapmaking skills and artistic gifts, is befriended by Kit Carson, his boyhood idol. Before their journey starts, the legendary trapper takes him home to Taos, where he meets and falls in love with Ana Barrag†n, the spirited daughter of a local grandee. Though promised to Luis Aragon, a new amigo of Brad's, she reciprocates his ardor, and he unwittingly leaves lovely Ana great with child. On the trail with Carson and FrÇmont, the greenhorn proves his mettle in deadly clashes with marauding Indians. After much adventure and hardship, the half-starved explorers reach California, which is awash in rumors that the US and Mexico are at war. Under the command of FrÇmont, Brad participates in the Bear Flag Rebellion and other comic-opera campaigns. Sent back east with dispatches after more than a year in the wilderness, he learns his beloved Ana (who was hastily married off to Luis) has died in mysterious circumstances along with her infant son. Although heartbroken, he accepts a post as aide to the military governor of New Mexico. Brad also renews acquaintance with Luis and, at the risk of his life, rides hell for leather out of Santa Fe to warn Taos of an upcoming revolt. He plays a role in suppressing this bloody insurrection and has a final confrontation with Don Bernardo Barrag†n, one its leaders. Zollinger (Chapultepec, 1995, etc.) brings his characters- -especially the estimable Carson and charismatic FrÇmont--to vivid life in a historical setting suffused in violence and romance. A fine tale of Americans along their way toward manifest destiny.