Redfield’s debut work of historical fiction is a compelling journey into New Mexico’s early history.
The year is 1821, and 17-year-old Joshua Kincaid is on a perilous adventure. Leaving behind his childhood in Missouri, he joins a trading expedition, led by the seasoned Lerocque, which travels across the western United States into the contested region of New Mexico. The territory is potentially ripe for trading, as Spanish authority has come to an end and New Mexico is now under Mexican rule. But in the unforgiving desert, the money may not be worth it, because Kincaid is in jeopardy on multiple fronts, including the constant threat of Indian attack as well as the hostile men within the trading party itself. After a vicious run-in with Lerocque’s son, he courts more danger when he strikes out on his own. Kincaid finds a tenuous home thanks to help from an unexpected ally, Manuel, a buffalo hunter from New Mexico. He falls in love with Manuel’s daughter, Maria, and begins to plan a future that involves leading his own trading trip into the territory, which cries out for goods from back East. Kincaid’s moral principles are challenged when he comes face to face with a culture that condones the capture of Indian children as slaves. Yet Kincaid’s participation in this practice will help save Manuel’s family—including Maria—from being sold into servitude and is encouraged by the church. He struggles to understand the concept of cultural relativism as he embarks on both a tangible and metaphorical journey. The likable, sympathetic protagonist travels miles across the United States, though his passage from boy to man is arguably a more difficult and painful expedition. Redfield explores themes of race and religion and their influences on the settlement of New Mexico through the eyes of Kincaid, Manuel, and Kincaid’s African-American friend Joe. In the first book of his Rio Grande series, Redfield challenges his audience with difficult historical facts and tangled relationships, inviting reflection on our nation’s occasionally sordid history. Vivid descriptions of the wide-open American West—especially the view from the back of a good horse—beautifully set the stage.
Will leave readers eagerly anticipating a sequel and wondering about the fates of its characters.