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VOYA -This book examines the question: What if Native American tribes of the West joined forces, employed modern warfare, and struck back at an expanding United States in the post-Civil War era? Sargent answers by revealing an alternative chain of events that might have led to a very different United States continent by the end of the nineteenth century.
An obscure Lakota chief has a vision that he can prevent the white man from breaking the Indian treaties, stopping the miners and settlers from overrunning his lands. He organizes a successful campaign to dominate the lands west of the Mississippi River. Further visions suggest that he could conquer the entire continent as did Genghis Khan in another time and place. But will he pursue this dream? The story unfolds through the lives of a Russian jack-of-all-trades and an Americanized Indian woman who has similar visions to the chief. Historical figures are interspersed throughout, and some meet untimely ends not found in your standard textbook. The author has obviously done an astounding amount of research about the era's people and events.
The visions and "shadow worlds" seen by the Native American characters are beautifully described. Sargent's descriptions of the Sioux villages and customs are interesting as are the gradual steps taken to attain dominance, such as the tribes' luring of Thomas Edison to their territory so he can develop his technologies for them. The novel bogs down toward the end when too much attention is given to the political in-fighting in Washington, however. Thinking about what might have been, in comparison with the sad reality of the many broken treaties in our actual history, makes the novel that much more poignant. Young adult readers of historical novels will enjoy this thought-provoking work.
VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, For the YA reader with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults). H