From the Publisher
"A well-crafted chapter in the Gears’s ongoing series."
—Kirkus Reviews on People of the Black Sun
"Sure to keep readers turning the pages… As usual, the Gears, husband-and-wife archaeologists, have enriched and enhanced the gripping plot with plenty of anthropological, archaeological, and historical detail."
—Booklist on The Dawn Country
The conclusion of the four-novel People of the Longhouse saga, part of the Gears' long-running series of novels featuring ancient Native American peoples. The Gears (The Broken Land, 2012, etc.), both archaeologists, once again show the depth of their research in their adventure series, suffusing the narrative with details of the prehistory Iroquois people in an area that now encompasses parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Ontario. In this installment, they finish their story of Dekanawida the Peacemaker, which began with 2010's People of the Longhouse. Dekanawida--formerly known as the warrior Odion, also known as the Sky Messenger--is a prophet who has helped to unite four of five nations in a peaceful alliance. Dekanawida has had a powerful vision that the end of the world will result if peace is not achieved among all of the nations. But one leader, the brutal Atotarho, continues to wage war throughout the lands. The Gears' tale is vast and sweeping, with a large cast of characters and the very fate of the world at stake. Readers interested in Native American legends will find much to enjoy here, as the Gears show their great knowledge of and affection for their subject matter. The novel works well as an epic adventure, and its fight scenes are particularly effective, though the overall pace of the plot may be a bit slow for some readers. As with many series, it may also be difficult to follow without having read its predecessors. That said, the novel will please the Gears' fans, and may broadly appeal to readers who enjoy other complex fantasy tales. A well-crafted chapter in the Gears' ongoing series.
Read an Excerpt
As Sonon strode through the evening forest, his black cape parted the sea of frigid air, leaving ice crystals swirling behind him. Every twig on the maples and giant sycamores was sheathed in white. Far out in the trees, owls watched him with their feathers fluffed out for warmth, their eyes shining.
Deep cold was a quiet monster. It slithered into clothing, stiffened leather, and afflicted bones with agony. Its unnaturally silent voice made ears crave even the slightest sound. The sheer vastness of the frozen land pressed down upon him tonight.
What is my offering? What can I give him to help him?
When he crested the hill and gazed out across the valley where hundreds of campfires glittered, he took a few moments to contemplate the next few days. He suspected they would be some of the most difficult of his existence.
He inhaled a deep breath, and started down the hill toward the warriors who had waged the battle. Frozen flowers hid amid the shriveled leaves on the sides of the trail, dead, folded in upon themselves.
As he neared Yellowtail Village, smoke flowed upward from the charred longhouses and obliterated the glittering Path of Souls that painted a white swath across the night sky. His People, the People of the Hills, believed that each person had two souls. One remained with the bones forever. The other, the afterlife soul, stayed on earth for ten days. Then, if it were lucky enough to be properly prepared, it followed the Path of Souls to a long bridge that spanned a dark abyss. On this side of the bridge were all the animals a person had ever known in his life. The animals who had loved him helped him across. Those that he had mistreated chased him, trying to force him to fall off the bridge into eternal darkness. If his animal helpers were strong enough and he made it to the other side, he would be greeted by his ancestors in the Land of the Dead.
Some people, however, had trouble finding the Path of Souls. Especially those who died violently.
His eyes narrowed. On the battlefield below, dead bodies lay contorting as they froze. There must be thousands of glistening soul lights, lost souls, out there bobbing and swaying in confusion, searching for loved ones to take care of them. If Sonon closed his eyes, he could hear their spectral cries rising.
He folded his arms beneath his cape, trying to stay warm while he continued thinking.
Yes, maybe …
Perhaps the single greatest truth of life was that the dead were not dead. Their shadows lived. They wandered the forests, slept in crackling fires and ancient sycamores, they huddled in grass that wept and stones that whimpered. They were the painted prayersticks that Great Grandmother Earth used to dance life in and out of this world. If humans could only learn to watch shadows pass like a mountain did, they would understand that death was just a whisper.
“Is that my offering?”
War songs lilted through the sparkling air, mixing eerily with the sobs and moans coming from the destroyed villages.
“Yes,” he said softly, deciding. “A glimpse from inside the mountain.”
Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear