TimePaths

The Books and Writings of
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani

  Review of Shadow of the Storm
by A.M. Dellamonica

As the dinosaur roam, the Cheyenne hero One Who Flies is a traitor to an alternate United States of America

One Who Flies of the Cheyenne Alliance is an accomplished warrior, a fierce defender of his people in the ongoing battle to prevent further westward expansion of the United States of America. He is also—or once was—the son and namesake of United States President George Armstrong Custer. Having rejected nation and family when confronted with the brutality of U.S. tactics against the Cheyenne, One Who Flies grieves for his losses in Shadow of the Storm, solemnly accepting his new way of life.

Shadow of the Storm is the third novel in the story of One Who Flies, an ambitiously imagined series about an alternate America where the domestication of riding dinosaurs by First Nations tribes increases their success in fending off displacement and genocide at the hands of European explorers. Thwarting the U.S. in its plans to stretch their nation from coast to coast, the Cheyenne use young Custer's knowledge as a tool in their resistance. Meanwhile, Custer Senior—who believes his son died in a major U.S./Cheyenne battle—has just won a second term as president. Thanks to the ongoing Cheyenne "problem," this term promises to be fraught with public controversy over the disputed lands.

One Who Flies pursues a delicate balance, helping the Cheyenne move in directions that will protect them from the U.S. war machine, while trying not to betray the fundamental principles of their culture. His commitment to stopping U.S. expansion is absolute, despite the high cost of his principles. In Shadow of the Storm, he finds himself in love with a woman whose family may never accept him as a suitable son-in-law, even as he is also drawn into the deadly world of international politics by a Spanish move to fund the Cheyenne war council.

Once a reader has swallowed the dinosaur-sized premise of this alternate history, the tale of One Who Flies becomes more compelling with each book in the series. Enclosing its father-son conflict within the life-or-death struggle of the Cheyenne people, author Kurt R.A. Giambastiani makes Shadow of the Storm into a tug of war. One Who Flies is caught between his genetic family and his chosen one, left with a profound sense of loss for his kin and culture but unable to return to his birth country. Everything is different; he has even given up simple pleasures like saddle-riding among a people whose dinosaurs would devour a horse. His bridges are burned; however, his loyalties solidly with the Cheyenne. The maturing acceptance of this fate makes One Who Flies an attractive character—more than ever before, readers will find themselves solidly on his side.

When Spain decides to meddle in the Cheyenne/U.S. war, the private pain of each of the Custer men is dragged into the limelight. The peace discussions bring father and son face to face, ready or not. Readers will be eager for the reunion, and it doesn't disappoint. Delicately handled and powerful, it fills in a portrait of Custer Senior, a favorite villain for many alternate historians, that is delightfully complex. The heartbreaking positions of both men—separated by irreconcilable differences that have not only shattered their families but cost warriors and soldiers their lives—are so believably communicated that they all but reach from the page, trying to wring out some consolation and ultimately unable to get any.

This third entry in an ever-intriguing series is tightly linked to the books which precede it, and when Shadow of the Storm comes to its abrupt and horrifying climax, all the major storylines of the series are left unresolved. The novel ends with everything in the air: Custer, One Who Flies and the entire Cheyenne people are still on the edge of catastrophe. Another book at least will be needed to provide readers—and young George too—with any sense of closure.

As One Who Flies begins to truly accept the Cheyenne ways, it is easier for readers to root for him—he is less an outsider imposing his ways upon them and more a uniquely knowledgeable member of the tribe. The fact that he can never quite belong to his new family creates a believably sad tone in this novel, one that rang less true in the earlier books of this series.

©2003, A.M. Dellamonica; reprinted by permission

     

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