Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
Although the Civil War has been over for a decade, the United States military has not fully recovered. Sensing an opportunity to regain their freedom, wise leaders united their Six Tribes in 1876 behind Iron Shield who was guided by the spirit Watcher, who “incarcerated” the First People’s adversary “Old Enemy” in a spirit prison These Northern Plains tribes defeat the American amrry and carve out Dakota as their homeland.
In 1883 Iron Shield’s death leaves Watcher without a host and Old Enemy planning to escape. By 1899, Pax Dakota remains a sore point with the Americans and though Old Enemy remains imprisoned inside the small medicine bundle pouch, Watcher has lost his way having no host since Iron Shield moved on. In this environ teenager Joseph Thorn is at best an agnostic who doubts the spiritual teachings of his elders especially the medicine bundle pouch that allegedly contains Old Enemy until the evil spirit escapes. When he meets teen prostitute Etta Dooley, Joseph begins to believe they are his People’s only hope to prevent Old Enemy from causing a horrific world war in which evil will use the energy of the dead and dying to exterminate humanity.
PAX DAKOTA is a fascinating alternate historical western fantasy in which characters break out of the literary norm; for instance Joseph is an agnostic instead of a true believer. The bundle prison concept seems foolish to him. The Pax Dakota concept comes across as plausible, but serves more of a background impetus for a second war between the Dakota Six Tribes and the United States rather than explored in great depth. Still this is an engaging tale as fans will appreciate Joseph’s escapades with his sidekick Etta as they struggle to find a way to stop an adversary that the hero does not believe exists.