An ambitious historical novel, set in the Rocky Mountains circa 1844, delivers a diverse cast of characters: English nobility, Native Americans, a group of orphans, and mountain men.
Veteran author Neighbor (110 In the Shade, 2016, etc.) has produced a sprawling, one-volume trilogy. In the first book, A Gathering of Orphans, readers meet old mountain man Ray Dobbs, who has signed on as a guide for the imperious Lord Edwin of Drumcliffe, who fancies a spot of hunting in the Rocky Mountains. Ray and the British lord’s expedition, up from Mexico, will meet in a large basin called the Bayou Salado, a province of the Ute nation (now located in South Park, Colorado). On the way from St. Louis to the Rockies, Ray inadvertently picks up four orphans: Moses, an autistic idiot savant; Little Weasel, a white boy raised as a Cheyenne, and his little half sister, Bluebird; and Dusty, an abused young teen. Lord Edwin’s Hunt starts with the letters home of the lord’s teenage son, Percival, a sensitive boy (Papa intends to make a man of him). Readers are also introduced to the Utes, a friendly tribe whose patience is sorely tried in the face of Lord Edwin’s wholesale slaughter. In the last book, appropriately titled Resolution, Lord Edwin’s grand enterprise falls victim to its own fatuity. But Percival does become a man, and Yankees and Brits see each other through new eyes. There is scarcely a misstep in this work, right from the fast-paced opening chapter. The dynamic characters are fully developed—although a few of the Brits are a tad cartoonish—and readers should be drawn to them. Especially touching is the family that gets cobbled together, comprising the four orphans, “Uncle Ray,” and the mountain man’s Native American partner, Crowbait. The writing is strong, and almost every detail resonates. For example, Lord Edwin heads to the Bayou Salado because of its salt marsh (“Animals come from miles around to get at it,” Ray explains at one point. “Such places are rare in the high country. When it comes to salt, animals seem to forget who’s the hunter and who’s the prey”). A lot of homework went into the making of this absorbing tale.
An engrossing and moving adventure about a British hunting expedition in the American West.