From the cover, I thought this would be a book for second graders. As it turns out, it is nearer the level of fourth graders…
Talatu longs for the day when he will journey to meet his mother and live with her and the Wolf tribe. He hopes that her brothers, three brave warriors, will train him to hunt and fight as well as they do. For now, he must live with his grandmother and great-uncle. But only until his mother sends for him. Then he shall begin his training as a brave!
But before Talatu’s mother can send for him, a strange white man comes to visit his great-uncle. What the unega could want, Talatu does not know. That it would concern him he did not for a second dream.
Imagine, then, his shock when he discovers that he is to go away with this white man. What can his great-uncle possibly be thinking? Is he to go as a friend? As a spy? And what could this white man want from him?
Talatu is an Indian through-and-through; he believes in and practices the old superstitions of his tribe. He often prays to Thunder, Long Person (which is what he calls the river), the Provider, Ancient White, and Red Man. He prays to them to make his hunt successful, to give him courage, to help him to act as a true brave should, to protect him from his enemies, etc.
After moving in with Shinn (the white man), Talatu becomes convinced that Shinn is a conjurer and worries that Shinn has cast a spell on him. He prays to his gods to fight this spell.
Before going hunting, Talatu performs a Cherokee hunting ritual. While out hunting, he sings songs which are supposed to send the deer his way.
Talatu is scared of what he calls ‘night-evils’ which supposedly “lurked among the empty houses and roamed the streets. They were here to steal from the old and the weak, suck the very being from their bodies and add it to their own lives so that they could continue to live on and on.” [pg. 4]
Taluta tells this story to Shin.
“Long time back,” he began, “some Cherokee hunters found star creatures.”
The stars had tiny heads, like turtle heads, sticking from their fat bodies. They were covered with downy feathers. They had no tongues and could not answer the questions the hunters asked them. The stars stayed with the hunters for a few days, then one night rose up into the sky and never returned.
He ended, “That is what the old men tell.”
“My gravy,” said Shinn politely. Talatu could tell he did not believe the story. [pg. 74]
And more of the same. The whole story is really saturated by this theme. If the story line were super interesting, I might give a cautious recommendation of The Man with the Silver Eyes. But it wasn’t. The first three fourths of the story was downright plain. This was when Talatu was still getting to know Shinn. The last half was much more interesting – this is when Talatu and Shinn become involved in pre-American War for Independence skirmishes. But I did not find that the last fourth redeemed the rest of the story.
When Shinn and Talatu go into the village, a man cuts off Talatu’s breechclout, leaving him naked. The man proceeds to mock him and Talatu runs embarrassed from the scene.
Two lies are told.
‘D—’ is used twice (fully spelled), God’s name is used once in a very serious situation.
Conclusion. So-so. It is definitely not as good as William O. Steele’s other novel, Flaming Arrows, but other than the religious theme it wasn’t evil. Not one that I’d especially recommend.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret