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