In 1804 the unclaimed territory of Alaska was a rich source of furs, for which Russian merchant seamen competed with British and American traders. Realizing that their own serfs and prisoners could be exploited more ruthlessly than the natives, Russia began to establish prison colonies on the mainland to trap furs for ""trade"" exclusively to the Czar. Nineteen year old Vassily, newest director of a Russian company, is shocked by conditions on his first trip to Alaska, becoming so disillusioned with his company that he elects to stay to help the prisoners and himself to find a better future in their adopted country. Mr. Clarke does not supply enough personal detail to bring his characters to life, and he lacks real descriptive power. Native uprisings, famine, sorcery and brutality notwithstanding, there is less suspense than in one chapter of, say, Treasure Island. Of mild interest perhaps for the plot alone to boys.