70 Following


People of the Lakes - W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear I know the First North Americans books claim to be a series, but they're all standalone books placed in different time periods, with different tribes and obviously different characters. This was the first of the 4 or so that I've read, and hands down the best.

This book has many similarities with fantasy, which I enjoy: one of the main characters, Star Shell, goes on a quest to destroy an evil totemic mask, and along the way meets up with some others who are also in desperate straits; there's a sense of danger throughout the book and chase scenes involving vengeful tribes; and there's a bit of mysticism-come-to-life, as there is in many prehistoric novels. The difference is the authors here are archaeologists and know of what they write. And they do it so well! I remember being bored by sections of The Clan of the Cave Bear that felt textbook-y, but that's never the case here. The authors know a lot about how Native Americans (ranging here from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, with the Hopewell as perhaps the most prominent) lived, what they ate, what they wore... but this information is so skillfully woven into the story that it never becomes tedious or breaks the flow.

Beyond the educational value, there's much to enjoy here: there's action and excitement, and even some romance. The characters are well-developed, especially for prehistoric fiction, and grow and change during the story. I think it's really the comparison to similar books that makes this one shine; many books set in ancient times are dry, but this one I couldn't put down. My one caveat is that it can be a bit gruesome, including violence, rape, and torture, which shocked me when I read it as a young teen. (Note to school libraries: prehistoric fiction is rarely if ever kid-friendly.)

This is a long book, but it's a page-turner, especially once you get past the first 100 pages or so. If you're mildly interested in the subject but can't see yourself reading the entire series (seems like there are at least a dozen) I'd recommend going with this one; after 3 or 4 I realized they were all starting to run together anyway. In fact, if you've never read any prehistoric fiction, but you like a good thriller, I'd recommend starting here. You won't be disappointed.