Monday, September 17, 2012

"Interesting characters, evocative scenery and thoughtful history..." (Reader review)

An enjoyable Western adventure story, Reid Lance Rosenthal's Maps of Fate takes the mixed cast of characters from book one of Threads West on a wagon train across America in the late 1850s. Readers really don't need to have read the first book to enjoy this story, and I never found myself referring back to it. While there are lots of characters, the structure of the wagon train keeps them well-defined--who lives in which wagon, who rides with whom etc. Nicely drawn details of everyday living bring the world to life, from how to circle wagons to the problems of crossing a river, from jerky fires to women's laced boots, Kentucky long rifles and the feel of a horse's "warm, moist muzzle" brushing a character's cheek.

I liked the sense of North America about to contract as railroads promise development. Slavery's becoming a national issue. Immigrant Jews are moving West. And Indians struggle with broken treaties as wrong-doers on both sides erode their sense of trust.

The novel follows the wagon train to journey's end in a small town, with miles yet to be traveled, maps to be studied and claims to be set, but the story still has a pleasing sense of completion, even as characters come to the fore. Book three will, I'm sure, be just as interesting.

I enjoyed book two more than book one in this series. The history, while not completely accurate, was pleasingly evocative. The writing, while occasionally wordy, felt appropriate and kept me turning pages. The characters became deeper, making me really care about them. And the dialog felt true to life. An enjoyable Western, sufficiently complete to satisfy, complex enough to build genuine mystery and character, and sufficiently incomplete to leave the reader wanting more, this one's a good solid read, evoking a life long gone in a world of possibilities.

Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


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