Gear (People of the Lightning, 1995, etc.) picks up the adventures of Boston Brahman Richard Hamilton, begun in The Morning River (1996), carrying him from untested student of philosophy and priggish young gentleman of society to maturation and manhood on the virgin frontier of the American West in the 1820s. The story resumes with Richard indentured to rough mountain man Travis Hartman and obliged to work on a keelboat bound for the Yellowstone, where the boat's owner, Dave Green, hopes to establish an illegal trading post. Travis is committed to making a man of the boyish Richard, who has already proved his mettle by killing a Pawnee warrior and rescuing the beautiful Heals Like a Willow, a Shoshone mystic who's smitten by the handsome but elitist Bostonian. For the slow first half of this sequel, Richard broods over the loss of his honor owing to happenstances revealed in The Morning River (they included robbery and murder)--matters that, like the frontier around him, are at odds with his sophomoric philosophical understanding of civilization's established values. Finally, though, the plot begins to move forward with a speed that makes the ponderous first 200 pages worth the journey. Richard is bloodied and badly wounded in a pitched battle, and he finds his devotion to the memory of his Boston love, Laura Templeton, competing with his newfound affection for the Shoshone girl. Ultimately, though, Richard is saved by true love--both in Boston and in the West--and reconciles his philosophical studies with frontier and human actualities. The stage is well set for volume three. All the sterotypical Indians talk like Oxford dons, and all the rustic whites speak in dialectical frontier gibberish; but, still, Gear presents the early American West with a rare, salty accuracy of detail. The action scenes are exciting, the romance ones only marginally sentimental.