Five books into his rambunctious Rendezvous series chronicling the fur trade in the American West, Spur Award–winner Blevins (Heaven is a Long Way Off, 2006, etc.) shows no signs of peaking.
A decade after ashen-haired Pennsylvania boy Sam Morgan headed west to find adventure, he’s a weathered character who understands more about love and loss. His Crow Indian wife died in childbirth, and now the fur trapper’s Mexican lover, Paloma Luna, has breast cancer. She leaves Santa Fe for Mexico City, to pray at the shrine of the virgin of Guadalupe, while Morgan continues his mission to rescue children taken as slaves by native peoples. When two Mexican women, Lupe and Rosalita, are kidnapped from their villages by Navajo raiders, he sets off in hot pursuit with a good horse, a steady aim and the company of his pet coyote, Coy. The dizzying number of principal characters makes this volume in Blevins’s gun-slinging epic about life after manifest destiny a bit daunting. Once the dust settles, though, the author regains the measured, confident pace that sets his western fare apart from most in the genre. Furthermore, Morgan’s frontier is refreshingly diverse, as American hunters, Indian warriors, French trappers, African slaves and zealous missionaries all struggle to occupy the same orbit, leading to invigorating clashes between cultures. Following his established pattern of integrating historical figures into the action, Blevins has Sam cross paths with frontiersman Kit Carson and loquacious mountain man Jim Bridger, among other western icons. Faithful readers will also savor the return of wildman Hannibal MacKye and inveterate horse thief Pegleg Smith. Neophytes may wish to start at the beginning with So Wild a Dream (2003).
A sophisticated alternative to cowboy bravado that owes more to Lonesome Dove than High Noon.