The Books and Writings of
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani

  Review of From the Heart of the Storm
by Vegar Holmen

The Fallen Cloud Saga just keeps getting better and better...

Kurt Giambastiani’s three previous books in The Fallen Cloud Saga; The Year the Cloud Fell, The Spirit of Thunder and Shadow of the Storm have introduced us to an alternate path in the history of our world focusing on the USA and the Cheyenne. In this the fourth instalment, the story of the Cheyenne and George Custer Jr continues and true to form Giambastiani gives us a powerhouse of a book. His books just keep getting better; and with vivid depictions of the life of the Cheyenne and their friends and enemies he brings an alternate 1890’s America to vivid life. Alternative history has never before been this good. I know this is a quite a bold statement and many people probably will disagree but in my opinion this is the case.

From the Heart of the Storm takes place in 1890 and follows on from the disastrous events in Shadow of the Storm after what most people assumed was an assassination attempt on the American President, George Armstrong Custer.

With an incapacitated President Custer in no state to lead the nation, his Vice-president takes hold of the reins and sets out on a path of aggressive politics towards the Cheyenne and the Spanish. With time running out, One Who Flies (the name of George Custer Jr among the Cheyenne) is missing. He is the only hope of survival for the Cheyenne, the only one who can forge an alliance with the Spanish in order to curb the US military and preserve any hope of peace. With the search on for One Who flies another twist of fate intervenes to give hope to a peaceful resolution to the looming conflict. To many people it comes as a huge surprise that this hope comes in the form of President Custer himself.

I find myself in awe of Giambastiani’s knowledge and description of Cheyenne life and their culture. It is obviously something he feels incredibly strongly about (he states in the front of the book some of the proceeds from this book goes towards an organisation that provides educational opportunities to the Northern Cheyenne and the Crow people). One of the striking contrasts in the book is provided by the descriptions of the three main cultures portrayed: the Cheyenne, the Americans and the Spanish. In the sections regarding the Cheyenne, nature and life is portrayed from their viewpoint. The importance of nature, the beauty of it gives a clear and refreshing outlook something we in modern society seem to overlook. The American sections are littered with politics and the need for expansion and industrialisation; all in the name of progress an making the civilised society a better place. The Spanish meanwhile comes across as a deeply religious catholic society where honour is very important and there is a clear divide between nobility and the common people. It all makes for a fascinating story and the blend of the three cultures leaves you with a very satisfied feeling of a very well thought out alternate worldview indeed.

Small touches like the bewilderment of characters from one culture when confronted by another also help to make the book. Trust comes with understanding of each other and the only way that can happen is by experiencing someone elses culture and see how they do things. There is no way that you can dictate how someone else should behave and what they should believe in and Giambastiani writes these encounters very very well. He gets the bewilderment, amazement and the slow spark of understanding and common ground down to a 'T'.

Personal battles are also very well portrayed; the main protagonist, One Who Flies, also battles with his own sense of failure. Being the son of an American hero like George Armstrong Custer, it means that he has lived with heavy expectations all of his life. Now that he feels he has failed himself and the very people who rely on him; he turns to the bottle and wallows in self-pity, pushing away the very people who love him and can save him from himself. With his actions he is mainly pushing away the woman who loves him, Mouse Road. He doesn’t realise what he has got until he has lost it, and with that realisation comes the knowledge that some things are worth fighting for even if you don’t succeed. Can he win back the woman he loves and be the man that everyone seems to believe he is or has his personal demons already destroyed that hope?

Meanwhile, Storm Arriving and Speaks While Leaving are two strong individuals locked in a marriage but unable to voice their concerns to each other and neither being willing to give. Will their actions bond them together or tear them apart? A defining moment occurs in this book that will determine if their paths are bound together or if they are destined to take separate roads at this fork in the road

Political intrigue, love, betrayal, cultural differences and characters that will leave the reader begging for more gives this book a must-read tag. If I could I’d beg Giambastiani to write the next installment as soon as humanly possible. But true excellence is something that can’t be rushed and I feel that's what we're getting from The Fallen Cloud Saga.

From the Heart of the Storm is out of this world. Here is a writer with an abundance of talent, and the genre is very lucky indeed to have him. A true masterpiece from any angle you might want to look at it from. Truly astounding!

©2004, Vegar Holmen; reprinted by permission


All contents ©2001-2010 Kurt R.A. Giambastiani