Hundred in the Hand

I mentioned a while back that I was chosen to participate in the Amazon.com Vine Voices program. That means each month I get a list of items and can choose two to review. It’s a promotional strategy Amazon is trying, and that means I don’t pay a thing for what I get. Lovely. I’ve been dutifully receiving and writing since August, but I’ve not been noting that here. I figure if I’m going to get free stuff I should promote what I’ve been looking at even a little more. Ever since my book came out I’ve realized even more how nice reviews and promotions are. Gives me a warm feeling to know someone has paid attention to what really is close to my heart. This is probably much less the case for companies who sent me electronic items, but I figure it’s only fair to start posting all my reviews here, not just the ones on creative works. So, I’ve some catching up to do. I realized early on in literature classes that reviews and critiques are likely my least favorite form of writing, and I’m not particularly great at them. But, I write what I can. And so here it is.

I’ll start with my most recent review.

Hundred in the Hand (Joseph Marshall’s Lakota Westerns) by Joseph Marshall

“Most people who are of the Earth live according to the truth that comes from the Earth,” the old woman went on. “One truth is to take only what you need. It is a truth that was not always known, but we know it now. A nation of many people needs more land on which to hunt. We took this land because we were many and needed it. We took it from the Crow people. They fought us, but they understood that we are a nation of many more people. So they moved aside, not because they were afraid, but because they were wise… But we do not need to take any more of the land. The Long Knives are different. They take what they do not need, and I think some of us are learning their ways.” (Hundred in the Hand, p. 167)

It is a reality of human culture that we see the world through our own values and priorities. We excuse and promote and honor and abuse to fit our perspectives, making those who compete against us the villains and those who fight for us the heroes. The story of the American West has long been told according to the perspective of the white settlers who came to find what they saw as new land, and new opportunities, to spread out and find a new freedom. Yet, there were people in that land who had already found their own freedoms and life.
Hundred in the Hand by Joseph Marshall
Hundred in the Hand is the story of the people who were already there, people who were being pushed aside as more and more white settlers and soldiers came into the land. Although, a little foreign perspective at first Joseph Marshall’s skilled story telling quickly draws the reader into the world of the Lakota and we begin to understand the events of the late 18th century from a different set of values and a different set of priorities.

At first the prose would catch me every once in a while, however I soon realized that this was being told as more of an oral tale, and in my head I tried to read it as though I was sitting and listening, rather than sitting and reading. The cadence and the voices began to live and I felt a part.

The story is not complex. It is mostly about various ambushes and preparations for these, with subtle character studies and gentle scenes that give insight into the Lakota perspective. But, in all of this we are smoothly drawn into the perspective of the Lakota, who faced the white soldiers with courage, and a little confusion.

Yet, this is not the whole of the book. About 100 pages in Marshall decides to bring in a white perspective, and so on and off through the rest of the book we occasionally see the story from the eyes of a white man, neither soldier nor settler who involves himself in various ways into the tale. Honestly I felt that while well written this ‘white’ perspective became a weakness for the book. Seeing the story solely through the eyes of the Lakota was a valued experience, and it seemed just when I was thinking along with them, I was pulled back, back into the typical stories and typical perspectives. I wish I could have gone through the whole book seeing the white settlers as true foreigners, and felt even more thoroughly the perception of the Lakota.

Yet, that is really the only negative. Hundred in the Hand is an engaging story that really is a valued addition to the genre. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

I gave the book four stars.

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