American frontier settlers fight off British and Native American attackers in 1774 and 1775.
In this debut historical novel, Sims relates the story of Jacob Horn and other hardy American settlers in Kentucky. While searching for a stray cow, Jacob discovers a small Native American war party escorting three white prisoners back to a Shawnee village. The young frontiersman kills the four warriors, frees the captives, including the comely young Adelia, and takes them back to Drapers Forge, a large fort and settlement on the frontier. A romance buds between Jacob and Adelia, but all is not well. Attempting to carry out the British strategy of halting American westward expansion, Col. Charleton arrives outside the gate with a cannon, troops, and Shawnee allies. The Brits lay siege to the fort, but the stalwart defenders wound many cannoneers. Failing to fully breach the fort’s walls with his cannon, Charleton orders an assault but inexplicably commands his troops to mow down their Shawnee associates in the initial attack. Charleton is later captured, tortured, and killed by surviving Native Americans, and his remaining soldiers switch sides and help the Americans hold off another Shawnee attack. Will Jacob, who is wounded a couple of times, survive? Sims has produced a novel that gives an idea of what life on the American frontier was like. His descriptions of historical guns and military tactics are acute, but his amateurish writing style tarnishes the work. The book contains many spelling errors, especially with homonyms such as might/mite, dear/deer, and pallet/palate. The prose tends to wordy constructions (like “a period of time”) and clichés: characters are prone to breathing “a sigh of relief.” His portrayal of “sinister” Native Americans remains stereotyped: the stoic chief Yellow Eye smiles “evilly to himself.” Dialogue can be as hackneyed as a dated Western movie: “Real quiet, almost too quiet,” one frontiersman intones, and a Dutch immigrant speaks in an annoyingly transcribed accent: “Iss gut.” Some passages are simply unbelievable, such as Jacob singlehandedly slaying four Native American braves or Charleton attacking his Shawnee allies.
An illuminating novel about westward expansion in North America in the late 18th century, marred by uneven prose.